Two days before I was going to return to Taiwan after being home in Texas for the holidays, my sweet Uncle Wally passed away. Thankfully, I was able to rearrange my flight to be able to attend the funeral and be in northern California to see my extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brother, and mother, to be able to celebrate his life of 89 years. He is one of my Mom's six brothers, and was always one of my favorites. He and his darling wife, Aunt Arlene, were kind enough to provide a home for my brother and me several years ago when we were little kids, when our mom had suffered from a nervous breakdown of sorts, in between marriages. All five of us kids were sent out to California from Oklahoma on a Greyhound bus, farmed out to different family members until Mom got well. We initially all went to Aunt Ollie's and Uncle Andy's house, but Marc and I somehow ended up at Uncle Wally's for a month or two. Since I was only 8 years old at the time, I don't remember a great deal of the details, but do recall being treated well and being fed by two great cooks, both Aunt Arlene and Uncle Wally were good at that.
One of the things that I remember fondly was that Uncle Wally used to cook the most delicious barbecued chicken ever. About eight or nine years ago, I called him and got some pointers on how to make Uncle Wally's famous chicken, and I've actually grilled it many times for friends and family since then. What a long, fulfilling life he lived, the father of five children, and grandpa, or Papa, as they called him, to many and also some great grandchildren. About five of his grandchildren spoke at his funeral and their words were a beautiful tribute to a loving family man who will be missed by all of us.
After the funeral, family and friends gathered around the cemetery where we were able visit the graves or headstones of many other family members who were also buried there, including my dear grandmother and some other beloved uncles and an infant son of one of my cousins. This was my first visit to this cemetery, and I took a moment to place a flower on each of their graves and it was a tender, quiet moment that I was glad to have been able to experience, and I felt a warm and peaceful feeling as my thoughts and silent prayers went out to remember each of them.
I'm overwhelmingly grateful that the timing of my uncle's passing worked out so that I was still in the country, before I was back in Taiwan, or I most likely would have missed the gathering. It was joyous to be surrounded by so many Jackson family members and to be there to share the love we have for our dear family. The day after the funeral, I flew directly from San Francisco back to Taiwan, where my awesome husband and son greeted me at the airport when I arrived. The month home to the United States flew by quickly and it felt good to be back in Taiwan.