Last week my uncle passed away.

He was the oldest of my dad’s seven siblings, graduated from Yale, and was a research and development engineer. He spoke Chinese and Japanese fluently. He was also a gifted musician.

But at his funeral yesterday, none of those amazing things were what I was thankful for about my uncle.

I’ve always been thankful for my uncle Pat’s willingness to listen and love well. When I was sixteen I told Pat that I wanted to leave my small country town. He didn’t dismiss, condescend, or dissuade me like many adults, but affirmed and encouraged me. Knowing someone believed in me meant the world to me.

I was also thankful for a conversation my dad had with my uncle a few months ago. I never heard my uncle talk about God, Jesus, or faith. He enjoyed a good stiff drink, and sometimes chatted about things I might not share at Bible study. But he recently told my dad that he knew Jesus loved him and had died to forgive him of his sins.

When my brother and cousins carried my uncles’ casket to the hearse yesterday, with a somber bagpipe playing in the background, I wept. My uncle held a special place in my heart. A place that suddenly felt very sad and empty.

However, I know I’ll see my uncle again. Not because he was particularly pious and proper, but because he believed Jesus was enough where he, like all of us, struggled to be.

And for that truth I am incredibly thankful. Thankful grace isn’t about our “goodness.” Thankful that because of the cross, death may take our bodies, but it cannot steal our souls. And thankful this end is not the end.

Love you, uncle Pat. Can’t wait to see you again.