Learning life’s lessons from Uncle Tommy

Published 9:25 pm Friday, March 19, 2010

We played chess a lot when I was a kid. He would come over to the house and visit my dad and I would set up the checkered cardboard mat and plastic pieces and we would play. It was always fun because my Uncle Tommy was the only person I knew who knew how to play.

I was 11 or 12 and there really aren’t a lot of pre-adolescent kids running around Alabama who enjoy chess. I suppose I haven’t really played since then. It’s funny how time does so much to take you away from the things you enjoy and the people with whom you enjoy them.

I guess I was again 11 or 12 the first time I ever saw someone have a seizure. Uncle Tommy and I were sitting on the porch, shooting the breeze, petting the cat and watching cars drive by. It was cool how he could make the simplest things fun. All of a sudden, he didn’t answer a question I had asked and I looked up to see what he was doing. He was shaking and his eyes were glazed over as if he could see nothing around him. I said his name a couple times, but he was completely non-responsive. I was a kid and he was the only adult there at the time. I didn’t know what to do, so I sat there and waited for it to pass. I had heard about epilepsy, but I didn’t exactly know what it meant until then.

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Those are the two most vivid memories I have of my Uncle Tommy, who late this week departed this life after his last seizure did some catastrophic and irreversible damage.

I often think that death is easier on the dying than the living. Although, to be honest, I don’t exactly look forward to the opportunity to prove that theory.

Those left behind are left to sort through lingering questions of what ifs, cope with any regrets, quantify the sum of one individual’s life and again face their own mortality. It is all a very sobering prospect.

But the underlying theme in all of it seems to be that life is brief. Each day lived is one less day to live. Given that point, it seems that among the most important things we can do is make sure the people in our lives know how much they mean to us. And, in the meantime, we should make the most of even the most mundane of situations.

That’s a little lesson I picked up while sitting on a porch and watching the cars go by with my Uncle Tommy.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Demopolis Times.