Posted by: Jack Hope | Monday July 30, 2012

Uncle Cal

Dear Terry,

I’ve written and told you before about my Uncle Cal but he’s been in  my mind again these last few days. I was reminded of him again by a tweet from by @NAMIMass that contained a depressing statistic: Adults living with serious mental illnesses die on average 25 years younger than other adults, often from treatable illnesses.

A follow-up conversation on twitter with @SimpLee_Serene, @BeingUncosmo, and @camediate pointed out the strong correlation between Clinical Depression and Cancer, with some discussion as to whether people with Depression are more likely to miss the routine preventative care or if people with Cancer are more prone to Depression. The obvious conclusion from our admittedly informal chat would seem to be some of both.

All of this though, is leaving me once again reminded of a person that stands out in my mind both as a cantankerous and difficult relative yet also a caring man. A lonely man who also sought solitude. Someone who needed help but couldn’t ask for it.

He continues to stand out in my mind as a potent symbol of a life that didn’t meet its full potential yet a real human being with many of the same hopes as anyone.

What happened to him was fundamentally unfair. But then again so is life.

He does leave behind a legacy in the family members that he cared about, in the example that he offered, which definitely is more than just as a cautionary tale.

I also happened to inherit his collection of books. What was left of it of course. Over the years that he was sick I’m sure he took many of them into the used book stores so that what I have left is only a fraction of what he read over the course of his lifetime. He was a voracious reader, a character trait we share and I think in that lies the key to creating something to honour my Uncle’s memory.

I’m not keeping all of my Uncle’s books, much as I would like to my living situation doesn’t make that easy. I’ve already sorted the ones that I wish to keep and I’ve been trying to find a home for the rest of them. I’m still working on that but donating them to charity has been an obvious answer.

I think that donating those books, in conjunction with building a website with memories of my Uncle would be an appropriate way to honour his memory. A small online memorial, perhaps with a way to invite donations for literacy and mental health charities to be made in his name.

It won’t be a lot, my opportunity to do a lot right now is still somewhat constrained. But it would be something.

There’s no tombstone or marker for my Uncle’s final resting place. There’s no place that anyone can go to remember or pay tribute to his life. Building a small online repository about his life seems like the least I can do.

Besides, while I’m enjoying blogging and writing these letters, I could use a new project to stretch me a bit further.

And doing something meaningful would be good for me.

Well, I have a lot more thinking to do now about how I might make this all happen. I hope you’re well, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

All of my love,




  1. Before donating, I would make a list so that if you ever regret getting rid of them, you can try to find the titles again, either in ebook form or maybe at a used book store. Advice from a

    • Actually, one of the first things I did upon receiving the collection was to do just that. Some of the books were in such terrible shape that recycling was the only viable option, so making a list made sense in the event they were damaged further. It will also make this venture a little easier to arrange I think.

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