My uncle ‘Cec’ was a great inspiration to me. I often think of him and the things he instilled in me as a child. The last time I saw him was at my brother’s funeral in Roddickton, Newfoundland, Canada, in April of 2007. He had grown a little feeble and I thought I saw a glaze in his eyes, very unlike the man I knew as a child. I remembered him as a strong man with broad shoulders, big biceps, and, wow, could he saw wood with a bucksaw! As we sat in my sister’s living room that day, Uncle Cec was in a reflective mood as we reminisced about all the times he visited me as a child, and the triumphs and tragedies of his life.
Cecil Earle (Uncle Cec was what we affectionately called him) was my dad’s brother, the second of five boys growing up in the 1930’s in St. Leonard’s, on Newfoundland’s great Northern Peninsula. Life in Newfoundland during the Great Depression wasn’t easy for anyone, and Uncle Cec had his share of troubles too. But, as he always used to say, “Life is what you make it.” He told me of some really hard times like the great ‘Nor-Wester’—the storm in the fall of ’37 that stripped his family clean. My grandfather used to tell me of this tragedy in bits and pieces but Uncle Cec seemed to recall it more vividly. He told me of winds gusting up to 120 km per hour and 2 metre waves crashing against the cove, ripping my grandfather’s wharf and stage to shreds. The old “five-Acadian” motorboat was torn from its mooring and crashed to bits against the rocks, along with the little dories and all the fishing gear on the shore.
“Lost everything that fall,” he said. “Everything… and we didn’t have much to begin with.”
But he told me he gained courage from reading in the family Bible about the tragedies of Job and the trials of Paul. He told me how he helped my granddaddy rebuild that spring and how the fish were so plentiful that year. “What goes around comes around,” was another of his favourite quotes. I’m convinced that his faith was as solid as the old rock on which his daddy’s house was built.
Actions speak louder than words
One summer he came to live with us at our house in Roddickton, 120 miles south of St. Leonard’s. There was only one winding narrow gravel road connecting the communities in those days, so Uncle Cec elected to take a two day trip down the coast in an old schooner. He arrived tired and hungry but full of cheer and good wit. Dad told us that Uncle Cec came to help build our new house and to ease him of the burden of working all day in the woods and trying to construct a home for his family after dark. But the way he took the time for my brother and me that summer, I think he also came to be our friend. Tired as he was after working all day, he took the time to joke, tell stories, and take us fishing on Saturdays.
I learned a lot from Uncle Cec. He taught me not so much in what he said but in what he didn’t say. The saying, “Actions speak louder than words” was certainly true for my most beloved uncle. It seemed that nothing got him down. I honestly never saw him get discouraged. It seemed he never saw a situation as a problem—only a challenge that could be overcome. When a situation arose, he would roll up his sleeves and get to it.
Uncle Cec was not a wealthy man by any stretch. He saw riches not so much in money as in making people happy. Riches to him were just a good reputation. I never saw him get the blues. Blue to Uncle Cec was just the Atlantic Ocean on a calm sunny day.
Uncle Cec never married. I don’t know why; I’m sure he would have made a fine husband and father. Love, responsibility, and integrity were just a way of life to him. He certainly was a father figure to me. He was the best role model anyone could ask for. He taught me to trust in God and never rely on what I think I know (he must have read Proverbs 3:5 many times). Lying, he used to say, makes a hard life because you are always working to cover it up; honesty gives you a clear conscience and makes life easier. There are not too many around like him today. We all certainly know we need more people like Uncle Cec in this world of unrest and rebellion.
That kind of man
As we were saying good-bye after my brother’s funeral, I thought I saw tears in Uncle Cec’s eyes.
“I hope to see you again someday,” I said.
“I sure do, too,” he responded. “Still got this,” he said, as he picked up his Bible, “the only sure thing in this world!”
I nodded in agreement as I shook his hand.
Uncle Cec doesn’t understand the process of conversion, the steps leading to eternal life in God’s Kingdom, and the wonderful world beyond today. But one thing I am certain of—when God opens up his mind and the plain truth of God’s Word is explained to him, he will embrace it. He is just that kind of a man. What a great opportunity it will be for me to explain it to him when we meet in the resurrection.
Hang in there, my beloved uncle. Next time, it will be my turn to tell YOU a story—a different kind of story.