Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oregon Unphotographable

I went to a funeral today. Jeffrey's uncle died early in the morning after we celebrated my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. Our trip to Oregon didn't go as planned, but what a blessing to be present and available just when family needed us. There were many unphotographable moments today. Here's just one:


funeral of Robert William Brown
Eugene, Oregon

Today we met the woman who taught Uncle Robert to read. I'm sure that doesn't sound all that remarkable. Many teachers sadly attend the funeral of a student.

No. Not all that remarkable.
Until you know that she is well past 70.
And he was an adult when he learned.

Here was a man who worked at the same company for 45 years.
Who married and loved the same woman for 44 years.
Who fathered three boys.
Who buried a son and grandson.
And he couldn't read.

He managed all the chores of life and the rigors of his job.
All without being able to read.

Imagine that.
Really.
Think of it.

One day, he decided that he wanted to read the Bible for himself.
So he went to his work and asked for help.
Told them he wanted to learn to read.

Now picture the woman, this lovely lady we met today.
She was already old; already retired. But, she said yes.
She wanted him to learn to read.

And so she spent hours teaching him.
Making difficult things clear.
Watching him, an adult, a father, learn to read.

And so she came to his funeral today.
To say goodbye, and
I hope, to reflect on a job well done.

Imagine that.
Really.
Think of it.

And I have to ask ...
What are you going to do with your one wild and remarkable life?

Imagine that.
Really.
Think of it.

46 comments:

smith kaich jones said...

Oh Relyn. The good comes with the sad so close together. I am glad you were there.

I love reading the story of Jeffrey's uncle's life. What a courageous man - I say this knowing a man who cannot read, who will not learn because he is afraid people will laugh at him.

Take care.
xoxo
Debi

maggie said...

You cause me to pause and think about the tenderness of your story and how we can impact someone's life. Not sure what I will do these thoughts but thanks for the pause Relyn. Blessings.

Debbie said...

I am so sorry for your loss. But what an inspiration is the story about Jeffery's uncle and the woman who taught him to read. Just because you are older doesn't mean that you aren't impactful in the lives of others.

Derrick said...

Hi Relyn,

I was at a funeral myself this week and learned a lot about a life. I did a poem for it. It is amazing what we might never know.

Jakki said...

this clutched at my heart...to have that desire to do something, for whatever reason, after so many years...to reach out and help, no questions asked...all of it is remarkable. what a beautiful memory to be apart of.

Suz said...

you have said it all so well
......teacher

lakeviewer said...

You touched us!

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

there is that word, 'heartfelt' and I know exactly what that means when I read a true life story such as this. I get the same feeling when I listen to Storyboard on NPR. How special a man, and how giving a woman. I am glad you were there to experience and share...

Georgianna said...

Oh, Relyn, dear, I am speechless, at the beauty of this post and at the unexpected and sad twist your trip has taken. This is a beautifully written tribute to Jeffrey's uncle and celebration of him and his wonderful teacher. My heart goes out to all of you. I'm really stunned. Sending love. xo – g

Oliag said...

Oh Relyn, so sorry for your loss...wouldn't your husband's uncle be surprised at how his story has touched so many strangers? He really taught us an important lesson himself...

Jennifer Richardson said...

Oh Relyn.
What a beautiful sight you painted with your words. I see it all.
And I'm honored to share the view.
Thanks,
Jennifer

S. Etole said...

unphotographable but not unseen ...

Cinner said...

Relyn, I am so sorry for your loss, but am glad you were there with your family. loved learning and how very proud he must have been to learn to read, fulfilling a dream, I can imagine all the times over his life he must have thought about this. and now his story touches the lives of anyone reading this. big hug to you and thank you for sharing.

Char said...

so sorry to hear of your loss.

Char said...

so sorry to hear of your loss.

Elle Bee said...

This is a beautiful post Relyn. Thank you for sharing such a sweet story. My sympathies are with you & your family.

Jenny said...

Beautiful, beautiful words. You brought a tear to my eye and really made me THINK about life. Such a fitting tribute. So very, very sorry for your loss. x

Nieves said...

Very touching your post about your husband's uncle. It is very sweet from you to write this tribute to him telling us about his hard and honest life. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Marilyn said...

A very special story of a teacher and her student. How wonderful that this dream came true for him.

Jeralee said...

What a pretty photograph, but what a sad occasion. I really enjoyed the story behind the uncle that had passed away. So neat he was able to finally learn how to read.

You were in my neck of the woods BTW. ;-)

I found your blog link through Cozy Blanket.

I like your choice of music on your playlist. Good choices!

Hindsfeet said...

Oh to live, to *really* live...to look back at the end and see some semblance of meaning, a modicum of the richness you describe here...

...to have made a difference....

wishing you and your family comfort, Relyn...

H~

gayle said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful story of Jeffrey's uncle and his teacher.

Erin Wallace said...

Relyn, this is such a beautiful post. That he learned to read so that he could read the Bible. What a remarkable person. Much love sent your way.

xo Erin

ELK said...

you take my breath away with your storytelling...do you know this?

..what a treasure and gift you are each time i visit...so sorry for your loss , blessings friend

Rita said...

Wow, what can I say? thank you for sharing that with us. We think life is difficult, but little do we know what others are going through. Glad the funeral went well and hope the rest of the trip is good.

Susanna-Cole said...

I learned to read at such a young age that I can never remember a time when I couldn't read, and I quite frankly can't imagine being an adult and not knowing how to read. Thanks for sharing his story though, he is inspiration and proof that it's never too late to learn something new or master a new skill!

And belated thanks for the 4th of July wishes, I hope you had a wonderful day, as well! ♥

xoxo,
S-C

Jynene said...

the photos in these past two posts are so fabulous, i can't stand it. it's too much. i had to google bokeh. can't wait to read more.
absolutley love coming here and reading your posts... slowing down, thinking about meaningful things... have a blessed day!

Jeanie said...

I'm so sorry to hear your holiday and festivities were marred by sadness. The story you recount is simply beautiful - it speaks highly of the man, his accomplishment and this wonderful woman.

Sending you warm thoughts and healing wishes.

suzyQ said...

This is so beautiful. Sooo beautiful. What a story! They both sound like wonderful people.

elizabeth said...

The good and the sad meld together. Beautiful that he reached out and that she was willing. I am so sorry for your loss. {Hugs}

robin-bird said...

"What are you going to do with your one wild and remarkable life?"
i have this written down on a a slip of paper that is tucked away in an envelope in a secret drawer in my studio closet. it's waiting for me to answer.

i bet uncle robert didn't know ahead of time that one thing he would do with his one wild remarkable life was to learn to read when he did. i guess sometimes the answer comes in the living.

i love what you have written here. truly.

Ragamuffin Gal said...

What a wonderful story and challenging reflection for us! Thank you my friend!

Tracy said...

Unphotographable...but very easy to see... Such a tender post, Relyn. Thinking of you & yours as you come together to pray and heal. ((BIG HUGS))

Jo said...

I've popped over to you from Ragamuffin Gal, and I am so moved by your beautiful post about Robert. What a true mark of a man to admit that he couldn't read and, as an adult, decide to do something about it. I am in awe of him and the lady who kindly took on the task of teaching him. Sending love at this time of family sadness, x

Amy said...

Goodbyes are always hard ... I'm so sorry. But what a beautiful tribute ... both to Robert and the woman who taught him to read.

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

I came over from Ragamuffin Gal, and enjoyed reading your post so much. This is a testament not only to the teacher, but also to the student. I'm sure it wasn't easy for him to go ask someone to help him learn to read, and I'm sure learning to read at his age was probably not easy. I feel so blessed to have been able to read about both of these remarkable people. laurie

susanna said...

Oh, this is such a moving post, Relyn. Yes, what an achievement for Jeffrey's uncle - to not only support his family without the ability to read (that had to be hard! Imagine what his memory must have been like.) but to also take steps to give that gift to himself later in life. Good for him! And isn't it great that we have people like that older teacher in this world?!

Gigi said...

Oh, Relyn, what a post! I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Jeffrey's uncle, but I am glad that you two were there to be with the family. It never ceases to amaze me how life often hands us the bitter and the sweet on the very same platter.

Your story reminded me of my own grandfather, who supported a family of four children without ever learning to read or write. He was an amazing man, and I adored him. I think it is no accident that I grew up knowing that I wanted to write and that I wanted to teach others to do the same. In addition to my regular teaching, I have often been an adult literacy tutor. The reward of helping someone open that door is beyond measure. It's also why I teach children's literature to college students. I frame the entire course around the issue of literacy. The number of illiterate adults in America is rising. It is a fundamental problem in our country.

Jeffrey's uncle was a brave and wise man, and his teacher--what a gift she gave him! I'm so glad that you were able to meet her.

Sending you warm hugs, sweet friend. Sorry i have been away so much. Once we are done with our move I will be back to my usual rounds!

xoxo Gigi

meandering pearl said...

these poignant & beautiful words touched my heart!!! the entire story, that your trip didn't go as planned but was still planned for something that was needed, your uncle's remarkable life, it really says something about a man who means to read the Bible for himself, & who has felt such pain for his family members he lost, for the dear lady that blessed his life with the talent to read, just too much remarkable courage to fathom in one go!!! so much pain, such great beauty!!! sending very precious thoughts to you & yours from a faraway friend

HKatz said...

I'm sorry for your family's loss.

I also think it's wonderful how you find inspiration from the man's life - how he lived it, and his determination to learn (and how his determination and dedication was matched by another person's dedicated help).

And thank you for posing this necessary question:
What are you going to do with your one wild and remarkable life?

Tracy said...

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Jeffrey's Uncle but it's nice you could be there to support the family. You found in it a beautiful and uplifting story as only you can.

Patti said...

What a well- lived life; on both accounts! That's what it's about isn't it? Life is so serendipitous- glad he was able to celebrate with all and glad Jeffrey and you were there- sorry for your loss. Thoughts go out to Jeffrey's family.

Christina said...

i hope uncle is reading that bible, to all the angels that are gathered around him.
blessings to you and your family at this time.
i love ya.

Jaime said...

Relyn, I am sorry for your loss. But what a story. I can't imagine going through life without the ability to read...so much of what we do each day involves reading of some sort. This wonderful woman must have had a special bond with Jeffrey's uncle. And how bittersweet that she could attend his funeral.

My one wild and remarkable life....yes....what will I do? Something worth thinking about on this lovely summer day.

Bee said...

I teach a little boy who is struggling, mightily, to read. He is getting lots of help, though, and I know he will master the task. I hope* that he will fall in love with reading books for himself; he is already in love with listening to stories.

I often think about the previous generation of children who were dyslexic -- or who had other undiagnosed reading difficulties. Passed up through the school system, faking it, compensating for it . . . while the trick of reading eluded them. How lovely, how heartbreakingly lovely, that this man conquered what was no doubt a great fear and a terrible insecurity and learned how to read.

I'm sorry, too, for his loss. It always seems too soon.

Dandy said...

This story was pure magic.

I'm in tears but it's a a lovely cry. Full of sorrow and happiness and hope.. and inspiration.

Oldies, but Goodies