21 April 2017

Uncle Bob

It would be easy to feel Robert Whitlow, “Uncle Bob” to me, lived in a different world—or in a social strata where certain things are possible that don't seem possible for me.

He and his twin brother had pilots licenses and owned an airplane. He attended Eugene Bible College, was an ordained minister, became a supervisor in the trust department and a trust auditor at a Seattle bank. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Seattle Pacific University and a Master of Arts in English Literature at the University of Leeds in England. He held a number of jobs in education, eventually serving as president of Eugene Bible College. He and my aunt Beulah restored the Colonel Crockett Farm, which became a popular Bed and Breakfast and event location on Whidbey Island.

He was also a poet. On the back of the memorial service program were these last lines from his 2008 poem, "Whatever":

His breath of love steals softly to us;
His arms are near to hold it all together,
But in the final hour His way is just
and we cry out, "He is ours forever!"

But his achievements by themselves don't do him justice.

Mom remembers he and Aunt Beulah brought a baby basket to carry my parents' first child from the hospital in Seattle to the funeral home in Ephrata, Wash.

I remember the evening he spent convincing me to get a college education...a voice I still hear mostly for what he saw as possible. He had a certain look in his eyes when he'd ask a question...and listen to the answer.

And they drove all the way to Oklahoma City for my sister's law school graduation.

At the memorial service, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, I sat beside three folks from the county treasurer's office where they volunteered. He was eulogized by a Canadian former member of parliament and a pastor who was born in Mexico and served time in California.

His world seemed profoundly open to the rest of us, not because he could not see our obstacles but because he could see us.

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