“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him. I will protect him, because he knows my name.” (Psalm 91:14)
Our Uncle Elias lived well, exemplifying the art of loving others deeply as part of his brand of gentleness and compassion. In the next week, his six children will lay his body to rest in a beautiful garden in Vancouver, British Columbia. Those of us who were fortunate to be part of his extended family, who got to belong to him too, honor all the ways he affected us deeply. He impacted us with kindness and grace, and we are all so much better off for having been given the privilege of growing up beneath the shelter of his love.
He was my father’s older brother by a year, and their mutual respect for each other was part of our family’s firm foundation. Their love for one other, the way they stood shoulder to shoulder in business affairs and family predicaments, became a bedrock for my siblings and my cousins that has outlasted the separation of time and space. The sound of both men laughing together in their delightful, robust way will always be a highlight in the reels my memory replays time and again.
Uncle Elias was a quiet man whose actions spoke loudly, who declared by his sacrifice of time and resources that others mattered, that selfishness was never an option, that if he could do anything to alleviate another’s struggle he would simply make that his priority. At the most challenging times in our family, he made sure to show up and be there, to figure out a way to help, and then to pour out a generous portion of whatever might be necessary to get us all through the predicament staring us squarely in the face. He was that kind of a gentleman.
We all watched and learned enormous lessons from him these last agonizing years as he tenderly cared for his wife, Althea. Together they battled the harsh realities of Alzheimer’s. He begged God to allow him to live one day longer than her so he would be able to care for her to the end. God answered his sacrificial prayer and allowed us a glimpse into the heart of a man who saw marriage as a sacred and holy union, who believed that vows once made were to be kept.
Our uncle went to great lengths to ensure our family ties remained strong and secure. He made it his mantra that we never neglect an opportunity to stay close, to encourage and care and help and bless other family members and the circles that rippled far beyond us.
It is a truth clearly stated and that will be celebrated for generations to come, that God gifted us with Uncle Elias and used his incredible life to influence us for the greatest good.
“When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” (Psalm 91:15-16).
Elizabeth A Mitchell
Photo Credit: Sonjia Imber (my sweet cousin)