We are baby boomers. We are entitled to philosophize. That’s what Dr. Jeri Fink of Bellmore, New York, a suburb of New York City, does whenever she thinks of her late “Unkka.” He’s gone now, but what he taught her lives on.
Sometimes a moment can sum up a lifetime.
I see Unkka on a trail in a rural Massachusetts forest. His tall, bearded figure blends into the trees. A contented smile plays on his lips. Although my uncle, my “Unkka,” he’s been a father to me for as long as I remember.
Over the years, Unkka’s words sprawled across books, papers, emails, and in the hearts of those who loved him. His beliefs became part of me, especially poignant now in my “golden” years.
He grew up in 1930s Bronx. One day on Zillow I found his childhood home and showed it to him. It triggered memories for him, like going to street “war” with guns made from fruit crates and bullets from shirt cardboard. Perhaps it was practice for the real war— World War 2— when Unkka served as an army medic in the South Pacific.
My favorite war story was when Unkka was in the jungle with his army buddies searching for trinkets to send home. I could feel the jungle in his words. Suddenly a small Japanese platoon appeared. Young men on different sides of the war. The Americans and the Japanese looked at each other. There was no language to share but words weren’t needed. Let’s live. Silently, the enemies crossed paths and never fired a shot.
Unkka ended the story with a poignant, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
The message has been with me all my life. When enemies can be friends, why fight? It’s even more profound during today’s tough times.
Professionally, Unkka was a clinical psychologist and theorist. He loved to cook— no one could hold a handle to his homemade sauerkraut and smudderkase (an old world dish of eggs and cheese). Most of all, he showed me that knowledge, ideas, and an open mind were crucial to a good life. He explained the concept of multiverses— now accepted by many of today’s top physicists. Then he asked the question that follows me every day:
What if there are other planes of existence or “realities”outside of [us] . . . the survival of consciousness beyond what we know as death?
Unkka called me his “nice” (instead of niece) and told stories about his beloved Persis (his wife) and son Kevin. Persis died young but Unkka lived 95 years under Kevin’s loving care. He had one final request: “Help Kevin.”
Then he passed over from old age.
Where is Unkka now? The answer challenges both my imagination and intellect.
Unkka believed there was much beyond physical life— our consciousness lives on in a different place and form— in multiverses.
Written on his tombstone, now shared with Persis, are the words, “Our spacesuits lie here… ”
I like to believe that Unkka is with Persis now.
A few weeks after he passed, I went out late at night. The dark was studded with stars, clouds formed a semicircle, and a curved contrail, like a message, danced across the sky.
I felt a presence.
Unkka was telling me he’s OK.