“85 and sunny here in Hong Kong. Love and miss you all. Can’t wait to get home. Wendy/Scott, Please send energy pack.”
That was a typical Uncle Paul e-mail from his travels across the world. UP’s Mafia Wars advancement was a family joke for a long while. Scott and I spent a long time the other night laughing over memories like that.
Or the time we drove past some horses in a field near our home during a vist from our city-folk aunt and uncle.
“Look, Alice, it’s a donkey farm!”
We didn’t make it to NJ for the services this week after all, but I still was able to feel as though I was there in spirit, through the updating text messages from my cousin Becky (thank you, I love you) and the kind words written about my uncle online.
However, in the short time I have known him, he’s changed the course of my life more than any of my close freinds. He’s changed my perception of myself, and now I live life constantly striving past what I think is possible.
Paul had such a big personality and was always quick with a joke or a story.
He has left imprints on so many that knew him.
Work hard, Play hard. This is the phrase that perfectly sums up my friend Paul. He was a dedicated professional who offered nothing but his best in everything he did. His commitment to lifelong learning was an inspiration to me and will continue to be so. More importantly than all of this was the size of his heart.
I can remember walking into Paul’s office around 15 years ago, the sun was shining through the window, there was a map of the world on the wall, and, for whatever reason, we ended up discussing the meaning of the word “tangible.” The outcome of the discussion may have been inconclusive but we finished with big smiles on our faces.
Uncle Paul was a man of technology and although it sometimes drove his wife a bit crazy that he was always near a BlackBerry or laptop, we loved that he had memorized our wireless internet code after only one visit. Or that we could always count on a plane schedule or weather forecast in a mere 30 seconds.
I loved the videos — like the ones from the time the four of us went to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. (Just ask Chochie about “Law and Order”)
Whenever there was a visit from or with Aunt Alice and Uncle Paul, you could always count on a few things: wine, yes. laughing, yes. trying or exploring new things, yes. And cooking. Uncle Paul and I loved cooking with each other. He laughed at how inept I was at basic food prep and I took in every bit of advice on cheese graters and baking timelines so seriously.
We would kick Scott and Aunt Alice out of the kitchen and just mill about my small kitchen, making a mess and talking about all sorts of things.
Uncle Paul made a shrimp dish one time while we were visiting that was so spicy we laughed until we cried. Aunt Alice made the best faces. Uncle Paul stood by his dish, and you know what, it was pretty good. I loved those times.
While Uncle Paul was traveling around Asia and elsewhere, I looked forward to his near-daily travel logs. Bits and pieces of his journeys — exotic foods, spiritual places, beautiful photos. Then, he started bringing home newspapers from different countries for me to collect. I loved that he thought of my passions and wanted to be a part of it.
And then, when he found out we were pregnant (he and Aunt Alice were two of the first people we told!) he started collecting beautiful outfits from his trips for Zachary.
He smiled from ear-to-ear when we brought Zack downstairs in one of those outfits during one of their visits. He was so proud.
My uncle never had children of his own, which is surprising, given how loving and tender he was with both his and our furry children and with children. He loved his nieces and nephews so much. He loved Zack so much.
We were so blessed to have spent a last great family gathering with Uncle Paul just last month during our trip to Jersey. It was Zack’s first time swimming and I spent a solid hour watching as Uncle Paul sat himself as close to the pool as possible so that he could watch Zack’s latest adventure. Uncle Paul was mesmorized by the Z-man, watching his every move and smiling at every splash. I felt so lucky and so loved in that moment and I will tell Zack about that for the rest of his life.
The day I found out about his passing, we had a birthday card from Aunt Alice and Uncle Paul sitting on the table. Scott hadn’t opened it, so I did, tears already streaming down my face.
In it was a check, with a note in Aunt Alice’s cursive saying Uncle Paul wanted Zack to have little swimming pool after seeing him enjoy his first swim so much. I smiled to myself and thought how beautiful it was, that even in his last days, Uncle Paul was thinking about making Zack happy — again.
To say he was “a great man” isn’t enough.
To say that he will be missed isn’t enough.
To say that he was loved isn’t enough.
He was proud. He was so funny. He was interesting, knowledgeable and warm.
He was incredible.
When I was going through a tough time last September, I received an e-mail from UP.
I don’t usually listen to the radio a lot – but I am very inspired by music.
This morning on the drive to work I heard a certain song that made me think of you.
I just want you to know that if ever there is a need – you can “Lean on me”
And from the days after Zack’s official diagnosis: “Stay well, stay strong – kiss the little fellow for me.”
Will do, Uncle Paul, will do.