Despite the best efforts of doctors and family prayers, Uncle Orson succumbed to the effects of mortality and passed to the realm of spirits. In doing so, he has joined his parents and two sisters who preceded him in that journey. There is surely a joyful reunion between these loving family members as Orson is welcomed to the place of rest and preparation for the resurrection.
Times like this remind me of experiences I have enjoyed that have been lost in the years. Such is my time pondering my relationship with Orson and the times we spent together. As I said in my last post, Orson has been my closest uncle and has been a great influence on my life. Being only 14 years older, he was still a boy when I came to the family and I was the first nephew he had so it was a unique experience for both of us. I liken it to my own son, Joel, and his relationship with his nieces and nephews – almost a big brother experience instead of a distant uncle thing.
I can remember sitting in Grammy’s living room and listening to Uncle Orson’s tales of the mission field. He served in the South and had some hair-raising times with the locals of the area. While some of what he said scared me, most of his stories built a desire in me to go out and serve like he did – as an ambassador for our Savior. When I did accept a call (to Canada) there were many times I would hearken back to Orson’s stories and realize there were some great things we held in common. Part of the reason I decided to serve (not an easy choice) was because of the positive image my uncle planted in my young heart.
After high school, I spent some time living in the Orson Whitmer home while I pretended to go to school and work (I’ll tell you about that some day). The family was very accepting and counted me as one of their own while I was there (we had some memorable motorcycle rides on the street in front of their house). But I was most blessed because I got to see another home where the parents loved their children and each other with total commitment. My own parents set a wonderful example but I had a tendency to discount them because I knew them so well. What I saw in Orson and Leslie’s family was a standard that, with my own personal experiences, helped me set a plan for how I would raise my children.
No one should expect that I think Orson was perfect. I know he had his weaknesses (but so do I). He would not be afraid to tell you he had his own warts and difficulties. His life was full of struggles and challenges (health, job, family, etc.) yet he never faltered in his devotion to those he loved. Watching from near or far, it was easy to identify the depth of his love and commitment to his family. He was an example to me (and I’m sure many others) of what a father and friend should be.
Orson Whitmer was above all else, my friend. I had confidence in him to tell me the truth and show me the right way to go. If I had been blessed with an older brother, this is the type of man I would want to have setting the standard for life.
I miss you Uncle Orson, and hope your reunion with our family is sweet and fulfilling. When it is my time to leave mortality, my desire is that you will be there with all those whom I love so much. Godspeed and keep the faith.
Your loving nephew,