"God is on my side."
My Uncle Don wrote that in his gratitude journal. Aunt Arlene shared this with me in an email I received today. Today is his wake; tomorrow will be his funeral.
Many bloggers have adopted a "Thankful Thursdays" habit in their writings. I believe that, in Uncle Don's honor, it's time for me to take up that yoke. I sure am thankful to be his great-neice.
I don't know what sort of sides he was envisioning that God and he were taking up, or who was on the other side. But Uncle Don wasn't someone I'd want to have as an adversary.
He was a veteran of WWII, where he served in Europe. They often refer to the two major divisions of attention as "theaters", as in "the European theater" and "the Pacific theater", but I just can't imagine taking a bag of popcorn to sit and watch THOSE goings-on. Anyway, he was Over There
from 1943-1946. They didn't decorate the 'theaters', but they tended to decorate the service-people: Uncle Don was awarded the Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars.
He ended up getting terribly, severely wounded during his service. On his cot in the triage he heard the medics say that he was too far gone, nothing more could be done for him. Amazingly, another voice, a voice he thought he recognized but just couldn't place, said, "Hold on a minute! I know that kid! He's a good kid. He's from my town! See what you can do for him, huh?"
He never found the source of the voice to thank him.
Fast forward years later to a teen-aged girl, sneaking into her uncle's bedroom. He'd've been out, oh, goodness knew where, but my mom was visiting her grandparents and curiosity took over. She just had to listen to those records again! My mom told me time and again how she would sneak into her Uncle Don's or her Uncle Frank's room to listen to their records -- they had all the good Big Band sounds -- whenever her parents took her to visit her grandparents and her uncles weren't around.
I kind of like that mischievous vision of my mom. I relate to the hero-worship of elder relatives who seem so cool.
As long as we're on that fast-forward button, leave it on til we hit the early 70s. That'll be my childhood.
Uncle Don was my Grandpa Kopsell's brother. I remember watching the two of them together when I was just a very little girl -- boy, they simply fascinated me! I tell you, they were giants!
They weren't just big for being tall (and they were
very tall!! -- and lanky, so they seemed even taller), they spoke
tall. The words that came out of their mouths were bigger than the words from other people. Uncle Don threw words left and right, like he was sowing fields, and he wanted to make sure it was a full crop. His words were ALL CAPS, and very colorful, and they came at you. It was like being wrapped up in the comics page when you were in the presence of Uncle Don's words, it was that bright and exciting. Grandpa sat back and pondered a bit before speaking, but whoo boy; you were glad you were there when he finally opened his mouth. It was something worth hearing when he spoke; and when he spoke it was with Title Caps and generally he used boldface
. It was exciting when he spoke too; merely to be in the presence of these titans was awesome. I don't remember a word they said, but I know every bit was earth-shatteringly important. At least, it was on that day.
It was around that time that I first read the word 'bombastic'. I didn't know what the word meant, but I did know that Uncle Don had been a soldier in World War II, and I certainly knew that the word 'bomb' was in that word. I knew that they used bombs in the war (and in many wars), and it seemed like a likely word for a soldier. Plus, it rhymed with 'fantastic'. What could be a better word for my dear Uncle Don?
This was all in the mind of a little girl still too young for Kindergarten.
Now, I'd never shared that story with anyone before this week. I've known for quite some time now what 'bombastic' really
means, though I often have to look it up to be sure (it never feels right to me). I finally shared this story with my cousin Sheila (Uncle Don's daughter), and they may be telling this story at the funeral on Friday. I had to provide a definition of 'bombastic' to accompany the story, and I think that's really wonderful, because it's just one of those words that most people use to describe a character flaw when it really should be a strength.
I'm so thankful Uncle Don was a part of my life. I'm so thankful that sad partings sometimes bring family closer together, even if only for a time. I am tremendously grateful for my cherished memories and the family I do have still. I'm thankful for my faith that feeds my hope of reunion. I'm thankful for the visit Rick and I made the last time we were in Illinois, and for the warm welcome we were given by Uncle Don and Aunt Arlene when we just showed up (well, we called ahead, but not by much).
And so, I dedicate my first Thankful Thursday to the memory of my Great-Uncle Donald H. Kopsell. I'm thankful, finally, that you reminded me that God, however we call upon God, is on ALL our sides, and when we get to that Other Side, we'll have a far better, deeper, more complete understanding of sides and of God.
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