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Thursday, December 15, 2011

This is my Godfather Leon "Le Le" Luker.

He passed away yesterday. I'm in the middle of graduate school finals and I can't focus on studying so I thought I'd spend a few minutes to write about Leon.

I think one of the hardest things is switching from present tense to past tense.

I've been very spoiled. I have a large family and we see each other far more often than most families I know. We are a passionate, affectionate, emotional bunch and we love each other so much that it is hard to express in words. We spend a week together on a lake up north every summer. Every year we get together on Christmas Day and over the years as our family has expanded, our Christmases have gotten livelier and livelier. Whiskey, wine, family, friends, kris kringle gifts, visits from Santa, sarcastic jokes, loud laughter, spirited games of scrabble, children running around, multiple dogs dressed up in Christmas outfits and food, (oh the glorious food!), fill our hearts and bellies. Truly, it is hard to explain how blessed I am. I have one of the most loving, giving and supportive families (on both sides, but this post is about my mom's side) around.

Leon was the oldest and the oak tree of the family. We leaned on him for support. He rarely, if ever, took sides in an argument and always sought to keep the peace and bring the family together. He rarely missed a family function. (In fact, I can't think of any he missed off the top of my head.) He was always there to help you build your cabin, build a fence, put up a deer blind, whatever. He brought my grandparents endless comfort, help and friendship. He took time to talk to each of his brothers and sisters on an almost daily basis. In many ways he was the quintessential family man.

Growing up, I think I took my Godfather for granted. I thought every little girl had an uncle that doted on her and held a special place in his heart for her. Le Le loved kids, he loved everyone for that matter. He wore his heart on his sleeve and I think that most of my family feels they had a special bond with Leon. Even though he was my godfather, I know most of my cousins probably felt like they were Leon's favorite... he went out of his way to make everyone feel loved and special.
When someone passes, often those left behind feel regret, sadness over things left unsaid and a sense of unfinished business. I can say with full confidence that no one feels that way about my Uncle Leon. Every time he saw you, he let you know exactly how much he loved you. He hugged you, kissed you, made a sarcastic remark, patted your butt and told you how good you looked. I know he is at peace, and I too am at peace. He left behind a legacy of love, those he loved and those that loved him. Really, what more can you ask of life? So many people loved him, and he loved them with such an intensity that I know that love transcends the bounds of this world. He is undoubtedly watching over us and wishing we would stop shedding tears on his behalf.

He loved to give us girls a hard time about boys. For my cousins who didn't have the privilege of introducing a boyfriend or girlfriend to Leon, you can sleep a little better tonight. He absolutely loved giving our significant others a really hard time. I know he scared the PANTS off some of the boys I introduced to him.

While I know he is a big soft teddy bear, he could sure put on a good "mean facade" to let a boy know not to mess with his girls.

Most of my cousins have fond memories of hunting and fishing with Leon. While I did "fish" with Leon, I usually just got my line stuck on something or in a knot. My family and I have an understanding that when I go "fishing" with them, I am really just looking to catch a tan and read on the boat. Similarly, I do not have any hunting stories with Leon. I did help him put out bait, build blinds and look for wildlife, but I am one of those people that should never, under any circumstances, attempt to shoot a gun. Someone would definitely wind up with a missing something or other. Leon loved the outdoors. He was at peace in nature. If you ever went on a four-wheeler ride at dusk with Leon, he would spot every single deer, racoon, rabbit, eagle, etc along the way. He could find deer where most people would see nothing (people like me, ahem).

In my family, we have a tradition of singing around the campfire. Leon had a beautiful voice, a voice for radio. He loved the evenings when my mom played guitar while we sang family songs around the campfire. Everything from "Lukers from Van Dyne" to "Trinidad". We loved it when Lele sang "Big John".

This is the first death of a loved one I've experienced in many years. I forgot how much it hurts. I am comforted by the fact that Leon lived such a full, joyful life. He was surrounded by family that loved and cherished him. He spent most of his free-time in nature, his personal heaven.

He is now without pain, fishing and hunting to his heart's content. He's probably playing some football too, a sport he hasn't been able to play in many years. (Like many men that excelled in sports and enjoyed physical labor, his bones and body were riddled with arthritis, aches and pains.)

Leon, my Godfather, thank you for loving me. Thank you for making me feel special. Thank you for setting an example that the rest of us should follow: to live each day to the fullest and to give each goodbye like it might be your last.

Oh and LeLe, just one last favor? If you could pull some strings with the Big Guy upstairs to help me ace my finals, well... let's just say it'd be just one more reason I'm indebted to you. I miss you. I love you. I wish you were still here.

1 comment:

  1. That was a really sweet post Amanda. Made me a little teary and also happy when thinking about my own family as well. :)