When I moved to Arizona nearly 13 years ago, I started a new adventure. I was in love with a handsome guy and we wanted to start a life together. He lived in Arizona so I packed up my belongings and we drove cross country.
When I arrived, I knew very few people. I had no friends but was lucky enough to have some family members that lived here too.
Also in Arizona lived my aunt, two uncles and their families. I quickly started a new job and met some new friends but I will never forget the sense of family that my uncles and aunts provided to me.
Living closest to me was my Uncle Jim, his wife and two young children. My boyfriend and I were invited to every holiday celebration and joined their family for many weekend afternoons swimming in their pool or relaxing at their home.
Although I didn't grow up knowing them, they opened their homes and hearts to me. I have wonderful memories.
I was never lonesome for “home” because they were there, inviting me along to family afternoons at the zoo or asking me to join them at the movies or offering Sunday night dinners. I enjoyed their company, adored their children, and felt lucky to be a part of this family that I hadn’t known before moving here.
As the years passed, my boyfriend became my husband and we started our own family. The time that we spent with my aunt and uncle decreased. Their kids were older with more demanding schedules, we had newborn babies, and we all worked.
Despite our busy lives, I was thankful that we continued to make the time to get together. Thanksgiving and Christmas are especially the times that I remember fondly and the memories that I hold dearest.
One day I got the terrible news that my uncle had cancer. Sadly, I had already lost other family members to cancer and I was worried. I saw my uncle as often as I could and was hopeful that treatment would save him.
Did he ever know how much it meant to me to be welcomed as an instant member of his family? Did he realize that his happy smile, clever jokes and hilarious stories made him the sort of person that everyone flocked to?