adventure, family, grief, Travel


I know this guy.

I know this guy with an adventurous heart and a mind full of wild ideas and a spirit that can’t be crushed;  not by frustration, disappointment, exhaustion…cancer…nothing.  He’s always fine.  In fact, he’s always wonderful.

Because he is.

He is wonderful.

He’s the kind of guy that hugs too tight and even lifts you off the ground a little; a lot.  He can’t stop talking about how pretty you are.  He tells all us girls we are the most beautiful girl in the world.  Even when I know he’s lying because his daughters are the most beautiful women I know, there’s something wonderful about being told you are the most beautiful girl in the world.  It’s easy to believe that lie.

He kept a key somewhere for 20 years and never moved it.  I always knew how to get in and fall asleep in a warm, safe, wonderful house that was busy with activity and full of love.

He’s leaving us soon and I’m so damn angry.  No, I’m not angry.  I’m sad.  I’m grateful.  I am so happy for him.  I’m confused.  Soon he will be squeezing Grammy and Gran and they will laugh and smile and eat sticky buns and cheese toast and it will be fine. Everything will be WONDERFUL.

Dancing at my wedding, 2004

My uncle is easily in my top 10 favorite people on the planet.  He’s the kind of person you hope you will have as a friend.  He will pick you up from college when your parents live overseas and when the moving van doesn’t have any seats in the back he will bring a lawn chair so you have a place to sit amongst the boxes.  He will laugh and say, “Don’t tell your mother,” which at 19 is one of the funniest things anyone can say to you.  He drives my mother crazy but it’s ok; I drive her crazy too.  She still loves us.
When you decide to pack a backpack and a few carry-on bags and take your kids to Europe hoping to spend time with their busy, always traveling daddy, he will cheer for you.  He will keep an eye on flights and he will call you every week until you leave, reminding you that YOU CAN DO THIS.

He will send the whole family emails like this:

Just talked with Jennifer.  We have a plan.  She will come here this evening and I will take her to the MAC terminal and once they are all checked in bring her car back here for storage.  THE COUSINS HAVE HAD A GREAT TIME TOGETHER.  Everyone think good things for Jennifer and the girls as they execute their plan!!  I am convinced Jennifer and those two cute girls will prevail!

Stand by Eric and ROTA!

He will drive you to the airport in a snowstorm and he will wait with your kids while you get everything in order.  He will slip your kids $20 like a pro and then he will take your picture and cheer as you ascend the escalator with your tiny humans and everything you need for 3 months in tow.


Here Goes Nothing…Everything

He will email you for 3 months, reminding you to keep going; ending each message with HAVE FUN, just like that, in call caps.

He will send pictures of your car parked in front of his house, ready for you whenever you return.  He will send emails about the places he’s driving in your car and end them with JUST HUMOR, in parentheses, in case you were confused and thought he had really just put over 9,000 miles on your vehicle.


Snowy Virginia, 2015

He will keep track of you the whole trip and cheer like a fan from an ocean away.

It will be wonderful.

Sometimes all you need is one person to believe in you; or at least fake it better than the rest.  It’s kind of a big deal.  Massive.

Sometimes you need that ace up your sleeve.  The guy who knows you are the biggest mess in the universe and have screwed up so many times but takes you to the beach and hands you a cold beer and a steamed crab and winks, knowingly.  Or picks your kids up and swings them around and tells them how beautiful they are, just like he’s done for you for decades.  A girl is never too young or too old to be swept up and complimented.  He knows this.


Big Brother and Little Sister, 2015

So really soon we will lose a guy we all love.  He’s getting tired.  He’s still wonderful, but he’s tired.

His big personality will leave a hole.

He’s generosity has made us grateful.

His willingness to break the rules for the right reasons contributed to why he was so forgiving of other’s mistakes and made him pretty popular with us “kids.”

Now, as adults, I treasure the little memories I have with this guy, my darling uncle, my friend.

In his wake he will leave behind the most beautiful girls in the world.  All of us feeling special and grateful for having been loved by him.

One lady will get to hold his hand right away and they will both be comforted.   She’s probably the first one who was on the receiving end of his compliments, when he was just a child.

She will be grateful.

And I’m sure it will be fine; wonderful even.

But he will be missed.

Grammy and Uncle Rip


I needed to write about this so please forgive me that it’s barely travel-related and hugely human-related.  And if you are one of his prettiest girls, please forgive me for coveting your father!  I know I have my own but your’s is also so very special to me.  And if you are his brother – know I adore you and feel so grateful that in my lifetime I have been loved by BOTH of you.  Love you.  xoxo


No one lives forever.  Do all the stuff.  Live all the days.  Whomever dies with the most Does.  Not.  Win.  He knows this.  xoxo

In my mind it’s night.  He just pulled in the driveway at Argyle Drive.   Grammy saw him from her office and met him on the stairs to hug him.  Now they are sitting across from each other at the kitchen island sharing a snickers from the jar in the fridge and smiling.  And it is wonderful.  




11 thoughts on “WONDERFUL”

  1. Well, this writing you have done really captures our special guy. We can only be thankful for him, back to when we were born only 3 + months apart, as our mothers waited for their submariner husbands What a man he grew to be, one of the greatest encouragers of this world, what a gift to all to us and many more. We love your sweet family and look forward to our next meeting. Love. Nancy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the most beautiful eulogies I have ever read. Thank you! Linda Hansen, wife of a USNA classmate of your Uncle Don’s. Live your life to the fullest, Jennie. That’s what he would want for all his beautiful girls.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So hard to accept. So bad to believe it is happanening. I lost my dad 15 years ago and it was so painful that we just prayed for him to rest. We knew he was exhausted and in pain so we surrendered our selfs and asked God for my daddy to be in peace.
    And less than 2 weeks ago I got the so hard and bad news about a friend from my childhood, mom of 2 beautiful teenagers, an amazing woman. She passed away after 7 years fighting cancer. It was so difficult to me to accept that my friend wouldn’t be there any more.
    I am sorry for this happening to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh sweet Jennie – I am sitting here, with tears streaming down my face, having read your tribute to Rip. I am so heartsick that this is going to happen and yet I am hoping and praying that it will be soon. He has fought hard enough and long enough and valiantly enough that he deserves to get to go to the best place we can only imagine. And I know Kent will be warmly welcoming him, too, even though the line to greet him will be huge!!! Thank you so much for sending that. No only is it so very dear, and accurate, but it is a wake-up call. He and Donna have been in my prayers every day and I have periodically been in touch with Meredith, and Donna, too. Having walked down this path, there is not a lot to say but thank you for checking on us.
    I am so grateful for our “reunion” last year in May and I treasure my time with you and precious Brynnlee and Teagan. Please give them hugs for me and tell them that I love them – and I love you. Thank you, thank you for writing this – and please, please include me on any updates that you get. I would really appreciate it. Love you – Linda

    Liked by 1 person

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