My Uncle Rolland was a tall, thin man. While I was growing up, I only saw him when our families were on vacation together. He was the type of man who wore his black dress socks and shoes with shorts. He occasionally stepped outside to smoke a cigarette with my Uncle Art. When my dad and his brothers were playing catch with a watermelon, one of them threw the watermelon at Uncle Rolland. He looked at it and didn’t flinch. It smashed on the ground at his feet. He looked at it, drink in hand, and said, “I wasn’t going to catch that!” My cousins and I thought he was hilarious. We had so much fun on those family vacations of ours.
It was during one of those vacations that I found out my uncle was sick. I was sitting by him and he waved his hand at his legs, showing me bruises. He probably said something along the lines of “These are a result of this affliction of mine.” He had been diagnosed with leukemia. That summer he and I talked about having cancer; I was going through chemotherapy and my hair was beginning to fall out. I would run my fingers through my hair and release it onto the beach. Uncle Rolland said the doctors told him he wouldn’t lose his hair to chemo, which he was about to begin.
I gained comfort on that vacation, talking with my uncle about an affliction we both had in common. We had different diseases, different treatments, but we both had cancer. Uncle Rolland endured a lot more chemotherapy than I did. I was fortunate enough to see him several more times before he was taken to his true home about a year and a half after that summer.
All who by faith before the world confessed,
Your name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Text: William W. How, 1823-1897