A Tribute to Fred De Marco
Today I learned that my Uncle Fred, the last surviving brother of my late father and his four siblings, closed his eyes in this world and opened them in the world to come.
Uncle Fred had suffered from various health ailments for a number of years, but in recent months these problems intensified and finally this morning created the perfect storm of systematic breakdown that stopped his heart. He fought long and hard and ran the race well, but, as for each of us, his journey here came to an end.
I'm grateful that I was able to visit him last Tuesday evening on our way to Savannah for Thanksgiving. It was very sad to see him without his usual dry sense of humor, absent his self-deprecating touch. He was doing all he could to hang on. I prayed with him, hugged him, went back and hugged him again and more tightly before leaving because I had a strong sense it would be goodbye. For now.
A Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, my uncle was the youngest of the five De Marco boys who grew up first in the boroughs of New York City and later in New Jersey. He was 10 years younger than my dad Frank, who helped raise him--especially after their dad, my grandfather Frank, died at the young age of 50. They had the closest relationship of all the brothers, and Uncle Fred was devastated when my dad died in July 2005.
I have many memories of my uncle being there at key moments in my life. During my childhood, we visited his family in Indiana and got to swing on a rope stretched over a big lake. When I was 14, he spent quality time with my mother, my siblings and I as my dad underwent a double bypass surgery. I remember wandering the hospital hallways and the cafeteria with him, laughing at his jokes and admiring the easy manner in which he seemed to connect with everyone--and charm a few nurses in the process. Big chunks of time would go by when I didn't see him, but when we were together it was like having a second father--and this became even more so when my own father passed away.
It's a surreal thing, knowing that all of the De Marco brothers are gone. I can imagine the reunion that took place today in the eternities when Fred and Frank were reunited. I'm not sure if Heaven can handle both of them. Although it is hard for me to visualize the exact dynamics of the afterlife, I have a strong sense that Grandpa Frank De Marco, Grandma Frances De Marco (yep, Frank and Frances, go figure) are-in some sense, probably beyond categories I can conceptualize with my finite mind-- enjoying a nice time with their five glorified sons.
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, the Apostle Paul states. Whatever heaven is or isn't, I am firmly grounded in that truth of the enduring presence of Christ who wipes every tear away.
The resurrection of Christ foreshadows our own resurrection, our own glory in perfection. The image of God that was incomplete in my uncle's mortality has been fully restored in his eternity. Praise God from whom all blessings flow, including the blessing of the chance to know my Uncle Fred.