A Moment in My Life – Monday, September 21, 2020
Dedicated to Uncle Gabe Gallegos
It doesn’t matter how many times you go through it; the news doesn’t get any easier when someone you know passes away. Right before bedtime yesterday, I checked Facebook one last time to see what my Facebook family was up to, not expecting to find Cousin Karen’s post that read, “Hi all. Hope everyone is doing well. I want to pass along some very sad news to our picnic group. Our Uncle Gabe Gallegos passed quietly yesterday afternoon, September 19, with his family by his side. His daughter Laura asked that I share this with family. Sending love and prayers to Aunt Rose, Laura, Lynette and their families.” I was expecting to find some fun posts to end the day off with a smile—instead, my day ended with a heavy heart.
I didn’t know Uncle Gabe well. He was my late husband, Mark’s father’s younger sister’s brother-in-law. I met him through the annual family picnic. Uncle Gabe was a gentle, quiet, soft-spoken man with few words but big smiles. When he smiled, his eyes sparkled, warming your heart, knowing that he was genuinely happy to see you. He consistently made me feel welcomed and loved in my extended family. I looked forward to seeing him and Aunt Rose, even briefly, each year at our family picnics. Who knew that you could become so fond of someone with such little interaction? Uncle Gabe made a permanent mark on my heart that can’t be erased.
I know that I’m not the only one who is sad we won’t see Uncle Gabe at the next family picnic. I’m also sad that, due to Covid-19, there won’t be a family picnic this year for the first time since inception.
When Mark brought me to his family picnic on July 4, 1982, I had no idea that it was the first family picnic. From the merriment that greeted us, I assumed this was something they did every year. The Davis and Gallegos clan are such a friendly and loving bunch that when they get together, it is as if no time had passed since the last time they saw each other.
This annual picnic has witnessed many transformations over the years. The first couple of picnics ushered in new members during, what I called, the ‘tying the knots years’ where many of us, myself included, married into the family. The next few years were, what I called, the ‘baby-booming years’, when the young couples started their little families. From there, the picnics grew to an impressive size for a family picnic when the little ones became many, and as they grew old enough, the four-legged members joined the family. Those were the golden years.
In the next few years, we witnessed a dwindling in attendance caused by, what I called, ‘the empty-nester years’ with the kids growing up and going off to college or moving away to start their lives. That was inevitable. Then there were the unexpected—the divorces—and families moving away. I thought that was sad, but that didn’t prepare me for what was forthcoming. I was still naïve, unaffected, and ill-prepared for, what I call, ‘the heavyweight years’ when irreconcilable illness struck, robbing us of people we loved. Over the short course of three years, we said goodbye to Cousin Walter, Aunt Loo, Cousin Tina, and my husband, Mark, and now we say goodbye to Uncle Gabe.
I’m grateful to Cousin Karen and Cousin Tim for their hard work and dedication to make the annual picnics happen, so that the extended families could visit together for an afternoon every year. When I attend these picnics, I feel like I’m going on a treasure hunt where I don’t know who I’ll see there, but I know that each person I encounter would be a sparking gem who would put a smile on my face, warm my heart, stimulate my mind with their stories, and satisfy my tummy with their yummy foods.
In a typical year, we would be attending our 38th annual family picnic in a few weeks, which would be in perfect time to console each other with hugs and stories to share as we toast Uncle Gabe, but there won’t be a picnic this year. Instead, all I have is gratitude for those times that Uncle Gabe graced my life by being in it. Thank you, Uncle Gabe, for showering me with your love. You will be missed, and you won’t be forgotten! Goodbye for now, Uncle Gabe.