Jim Karam knew my Uncle Virgil, though I didn’t know that when I arranged to interview him about his and his wife Dorothy’s 70th wedding anniversary.
“What a small, small world we live in!” Jim wrote in an email.
Jim and Virgil were friends for decades, having met at the Elks Lodge, where they played golf and poker every week.
“He was fanatic about his health, eating all kinds of grains and other such types of food,” Jim wrote. “His passing shocked us, and several attended the funeral and remember your heart-felt eulogy.”
Reading those words, I was transported to Virgil’s hospice room, where I had sat with his daughters, Kasey and Shantel, waiting for their brothers to arrive, Justin from across town, and Virgil Jr., who was in the Marines, from Afghanistan.
Virgil Bland was my dad’s little brother and my favorite uncle. He was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease when he was 58. He was 64 when he died in 2011.
I remembered Virgil talking about “the boys” at the Elks Lodge. Now I was on the phone with one of them. I told Jim how, after my father died in 1999, I would call Virgil when I needed advice, or help, or to talk. Virgil bought my son his first bike.
“He had a heart of gold,” Jim said.
Jim felt like he knew me and my family from spending so much time with Virgil. He’d met Virgil’s children over the years. As kids, Kasey and Virgil Jr. often were at the lodge, for Easter egg hunts and to play racquetball.
“Virgil was so proud of his kids,” Jim said.
This encounter was a gift you sometimes receive when you’ve lost someone. New stories that bring the person back to you.
When it’s safe again, I’ll invite my cousins to the Elks Lodge to meet Jim and the boys. For a night, they can have their dad again.
Reach Karina Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @KarinaBland.
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