Today would be my Uncle AJ's 40th birthday. I loved my Uncle AJ. He would always drop by unannounced and I loved every minute of it when he did. I remember the excitement I felt when the doorbell would ring and I'd look outside and it was him! He lived about 2 hours away and would just randomly drop by. Not sure if it was just to visit or what - I let the adults do their adult thing...but he would talk to me about music and play with me. I even remember going out for ice cream with him once.
One day I came home from church camp (I was around 11 years old and had just gone to a camp in Oklahoma) to find a ton of cars at my house. The whole family was there when I was being dropped off. I remember my first thought was that my mom had lost the baby again. She had several miscarriages and I remember how sad my mom would get when she lost the baby. However, I thought it was strange that everyone came over this time. They hadn't for the last ones - maybe it was because mom was so far along? Well, my initial thoughts were wrong. Thankfully she had not lost the baby this time (and I am extremely happy for that - because now I have my little sister Aubrey!). I learned that my Uncle AJ - who was 25 at the time, had been electrocuted and killed at a work accident a few days earlier. I remember being really upset at first because no one had called to let me know at camp. I later found out that they made that decision so I would have a good time and not have to deal with that at a strange place. I remember some of my first thoughts after finding out was how upset with myself I was that I was off having all of that fun while my family was back home suffering. After a few years I came to realize that I didn't know and that it was okay that I continued to have fun. That Uncle AJ would have wanted it that way as well.
To this day, certain things still set off his memory. I wish I could have gotten to know him more as an adult. Eleven years is not nearly enough time and I know he was the "cool" uncle who I would have had a bit too much fun hanging out with! haha. There are certain songs that will play on the radio that stop me in my tracks - remind me of him. Songs he had introduced me to and songs that played at his funeral. I have some pretty great pictures of me being so happy hanging out with him. I am thankful for those.
While today is hard for our family - on his birthday - it is also a great time to remember and be happy that we had a few years with him.
I love you Uncle AJ - if I could visit heaven today I would and I'm sure we'd get into some trouble :-)