[As you can see, I found one] It is about a lesson that I learned when I was about 16 years old. At the time I was a pretty fair "country" handball player. I was not able to afford the fees for indoor play, so I got to ruin a lot of shoes on the tar courts that were available. There was one fairly good clay court at the West Street public school in Holyoke. So I spent some time there. It just so happened that my Uncle Edward was also quite adept at the game. So if we both played, we could split the fees and have some fun...at least that's what he called it. I had confidence that it would be fun. after all he was 15 years or more my senior. I thought that "fun" was the appropriate word...but not for him. Now you know that I would not be writing this if it had been fun for me. Right?
The truth is, that in the time we played, he took the skin right off me. He was cool, calculated, intellectual, methodical, insightful, in short, relaxed and in control. In four months I learned a lot, but I lost all but three games (3 of 5).
I learned many things from my uncle for the three or four months that we played handball. We stopped because our lives took forked paths. Actually, I was left with a large hole in my life when that happened. But the "parting" stories I have are for another time. This one is about several things, all of them important, all of them have to be learned. But learning them is not the end of the story. Remember my reflections about "winning" and "surviving?" Learning life lessons falls in the same category. My uncle taught me this. "Killing" the person you defeat is not necessary. Making your victory a pleasant lesson for the opponent is the ideal way to win. Losing without learning something is the real loss. He told me to read Jean Paul Sartre, the existentialist so that I could understand what he was saying. His biggest point was that winning and losing are defining processes of whom you become, not what you become, and especially, not what you are now. I don't know how many times he paraphrased Sartre by saying, "It's in dying that you define your life." I don't know how many times he said, before repeating the dying bit, "It's in winning that you prepare your dying."
I learned that my uncle trusted that a 16 year old could accept and understand these concepts. I learned that EFR Dion's brother was made of the same material that shaped my father. Not only did Ed trust ME, he trusted people as a default position in life. One of the first times we had played indoors, we had showered and and were toweling ourselves dry when Ed, short for Edward, you know. I always called him Uncle, notice the Upper Case "U". Anyway, at a given moment he softly said to me, "You know who that guy is? The one over there in the corner to your left." I had to admit that I didn't know him, not at all. Not by facial recognition nor by any other of the clues that I could have used at the moment. So I said so. Uncle Ed said, "That's the mayor of Holyoke. Not too much different that the rest of us, is he?" I didn't have to read Jean Paul Sartre to understand that lesson. You can tell that I never forgot it. When you get right down to it, we're all the same. Skin is water proof for everybody; everybody sweats and smells when that happens; just about everybody is bi-laterally symmetrical, but not to the point of perfection. Remember my thoughts about the difference between the human concept of beauty and nature's expression of beauty. Nature doesn't present perfect symmetry as beauty. Anyway, we're all about the same on the outside. It's on the inside that we differ. It's from the inside out that we define ourselves. Check out Mark's Gospel. It's in "winning and losing", it's in how we suffer and how we survive from what we have suffered that we define ourselves. Yes, our crowning glory or our crushing opprobrium is clearly unveiled during the last moments of our life. Don't believe me? Look around you. If you fill the church while you're in your coffin, it's usually not because those who knew you want to see for themselves that you're really out of their lives. If your survivors have to hire six strong street people to carry the box, chances are pretty good that it's God's call without a jury. Summary judgement is what that's called.
I leave you with these thoughts and with the directive that there is not to be any crying at my funeral. No matter that you beat me or lost to me, all that is important is that you've learned something for having known me. Even if it's only how not to do something.