My Uncle Morton died a few days ago at the age of 89, and while most people will remember him as a splendid family man, father, grandfather and businessman, my childhood memories are of a unique, kind man who everyone looked up to. I remember Uncle Mort as the cool bachelor uncle with the shiny latest model car. His was the only car in which I (and all his other rug rat nephews and nieces) was restrained so we wouldn't smear our grimy fingerprints all over his shiny clean windows.
Eventually, Uncle Mort settled down marrying the tall, slender Rosella, who we came to know as a kind and gentle aunt willing to give whatever was needed while always looking stunning. She and Mort were the ones who always hosted the best holiday gatherings, and whenever they entered a room, they were the striking couple that turned heads with their charisma and charm -- not something we saw a lot of in our family.
When I was a teenager, I always felt special when people said that I looked a lot like a younger version of handsome Uncle Mort, and I admired the way he handled his business and family with such grace and dignity. He was a man's man who was also a dedicated family man.
The last time I saw him at my mother's funeral in 2007, he was as tall and dignified as ever. Theirs was a large, poor family with at least nine brothers and sisters, but Uncle Mort always stood out as the successful one who handled himself with a kind generosity that reflected a deep inner awareness.
When I received the text saying "Uncle Mort passed on," I was surprised but not shocked. After all, he was 89. Still, he always felt like the guy who would live, love and lead forever. Even today, I feel his presence almost as deeply as I did when I was a mere toddler trying to leave my impression on his sparkling car windows.
No doubt, Uncle Mort continues his journey through time and space along with his beloved Rosie. Personally, upon hearing of his death, I lit a candle and remembered what I learned from him as I felt our ongoing connection and affirmed the gifts he contributed to his family and the world.
My all people's lives be filled with such kindness, grace and love.
Morton Lent. January 22, 1926 -- March 10, 2015