Happiness Challenge Day 22: Sangria and Family; Happiness and Grief

Throughout the month of the happiness challenge, I've frequently referenced that the real challenge is finding happiness in the middle of life's chaos. Some days are better than others.

March 22 is one of those days where it's hard. Three years ago we lost my Uncle Charlie, my father's beloved only brother, my godfather, and everyone's favorite uncle. 

Uncle Charlie and his amazing wife Aunt Lily were believers. I'm a believer. This day still hurts. When I read my dad's eloquent words about his brother I cry uncontrollably. (Here's his post for his Happiness Challenge today.) But I'm also happy that I had the coolest uncle, who taught me about Cuban food and mojitos, and the importance of living life to the fullest.

Today I'm reposting something I wrote in 2009 from which I took words for his memorial service. The day of his service there was a brilliant sunrise in Miami. Getting ready this morning, blinking back tears, I saw the bright pink clouds of the dawn. 



"Everyone needs an Uncle Charlie. My dad's only brother and my godfather, he was always the cool one. He lived in Miami and had a rockin' mustache. When the good times started to roll he had a Budweiser and cigarette in hand, and was about the most laid back, kindest person you'd ever meet. He had a beautiful Cuban wife named Lily who swept this New Yorker off his feet.

Although they never had kids of their own, they were always playful and patient with their gaggle of nieces and nephews and friends' kids. From the times they visited us on Southridge Drive in Clearwater to the times in college and my 20s when they welcomed me, friends, and various boyfriends to Miami, they were always generous in listening to our exploits and in playing along. They introduced me to real Cuban sandwiches, and most recently, to the intricacies of cafe con leche.

I will never forget the time I visited in college with a high school friend. She and I joined Uncle Charlie and Aunt Lily for tapas and sangria, which we drank in pitchers. We walked along the water, I, arm in Arm with Uncle Charlie, who was surely encouraging me to get in to some kinda trouble, probably of the cocktail variety.

When he and Aunt Lily visited Birmingham about two years ago to explore treatments for his  aggressive cancer (then in remission) we shared a bottle of wine at dinner. It was called 'Dynamite.' We both loved it for the name. It was our inside joke since then. I'd tell him to get better so we could again share a bottle of 'Dynamite.' When I visited him a week ago I asked if he was smuggling some of it into the hospital. 

He never gave up hope, and his courage has left an imprint on the hearts of all who knew and loved him. Even the nurses at the hospital told me how much they cared about him, and how kind and patient he was with the medical students making rounds.

Today my thoughts are with my Aunt Lily, who loved him unconditionally and cared for him throughout their 30+ years of marriage. And with my Dad, who was the best brother you could ask for. And for everyone who loved him.

Although I'd known that this was a possibility I was devastated to get the call early this morning. But thankful for his life .

This is how I want to remember my Uncle Charlie: him laughing conspiratorially. Sharing a bottle  of Dynamite. Today I raise a glass to him, and to my Aunt Lily, who was him every step of the way. I know he has saddled up to the great bar in heaven, surely causing trouble. Cheers, Uncle Charlie. "

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