Friday, May 20, 2022

Another Goodbye

Hello Friends.  I've been really irregular about posting so far this year, and I apologize.  I try to visit you and leave comments when I can, but this has been a year of change.  We are transitioning to Hal's retirement, and a lot of the time, we have trouble remembering what day of the week and what month it is.    
Southport Harbor at sunset
We were at the beach (Oak Island, North Carolina) most of last week.  I took my laptop with me, thinking I might do a blog post, but I never even opened the computer.  It rained a lot while we were there, but it was still so relaxing for us.  We spent hours sitting on the screened back porch reading and watching the birds (and the golfers).  In the back of my mind most of the time was what kind of bad news we might receive before we returned home.  Even so, I was still shocked when my mom texted me from the hospital to let me know my uncle Johnny was gone.  I had prayed and prayed that he would get better, but it was not to be.  When I consider how sick he was, God knew that it was time to take him home.  My mother-in-law reminded me that there are worse things than death, and she is right.     
Johnny was apparently very sick with (possibly) a blood disorder.  Something had started killing off his red blood cells.  He had been ill for a while but had kept it to himself as much as possible.  He forbade his wife to tell my mom how sick he was; he was just a very private person.  By the time he was admitted to the hospital, he was so sick, the doctors ran out of time before they could pinpoint his illness.  He was in Baptist Hospital for a month, during which time my mom said it seemed like they ran every kind of test imaginable.  He also had a stroke while he was there and later developed aspiration pneumonia.  He died on May 14th, with my mom and his wife there with him.  We will miss him very much.     
 John Thomas McGee 1949-2022  
My uncle Johnny was part of the flight crew who flew the Air Care helicopter for Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.  He performed this job for five years, and I know he saw a lot of things he hoped to never see again.  He told me so himself.  Also, during the course of those five years, he lost a good friend (a pilot who served in Vietnam) and two nurses, when the helicopter crashed in the mountains in route to pick up a critically ill patient.  They were flying in adverse weather conditions and solely dependent on radar.  Sadly, these fatal accidents happen more than we realize, and my grandmother worried constantly about my uncle while he was working for Air Care.  Johnny learned to fly small planes after high school and then to fly helicopters in the Army.  He loved flying.  

My uncle served in the U.S. Army and later was in the Naval Reserves.  He also worked for Westinghouse, Baptist Hospital, and Amp, Inc.  Johnny, eight years younger than my mom, was her only sibling.  There were two twin girls who came between my mom and Johnny, but they were born prematurely and only lived for a day.  My dad didn't have any siblings, so Johnny was my only uncle.  Until I was nine years old, he lived with my grandparents right across the street from us in our first little house.  I was at my grandparents' house a lot in those days, and I remember Johnny always getting up to mischief and teasing me unmercifully.   
My grandparents moved from that house further out of the city when I was nine, and when I was ten, my parents built a house out in the country, as well.  When he married, Johnny built a house down the street from us; I think he always wanted to be around for my mom.  His marriage didn't work out, and still he stayed in that house.  When I was a teenager, I visited often.  I had typical teenager problems, which seemed so dramatic to me at the time.  He was non-judgmental and a good person for me to talk to.  My maternal grandfather died when I was ten, but I remained close to my grandmother and Johnny for the rest of their lives.

Above, I am standing next to my maternal grandfather, in front of their house at that time.  I must have been seven or eight years old.  I will forever associate my uncle Johnny with those years when my grandparents were alive.  Those were good memories.    
I recently wrote about visiting the family gravesites at Easter and how Hal and I found out we are sixth cousins.  My uncle Johnny is the one who did our family geneaology some years ago.  He told me that thanks to the research, I could join the DAR if I wanted to.  I find all that history so fascinating, but I'm not much for joining clubs and societies.  However, I'm sort of having second thoughts on that now.  We shall see.       
I feel like there have been a lot of goodbyes in our life lately.  Our parents are of the age where they attend many funerals, and we are not to that point yet, but I see it looming closer.  I think this is partly because the years seem to fly by so much faster than they did when I was younger.  I am thankful for my faith, and I firmly believe my uncle is with my grandparents right now and we will all see each other again someday.  
I don't mean for this post to be too melancholy, but this is all part of life, isn't it?  I will share more about Oak Island soon.  In the meantime, I appreciate your friendship and your visits here.  It's almost officially summer -- are you excited?  It's already 92° here, so phew!  I'll be enjoying the air-conditioned indoors today.  😉  Have a good weekend!!   
High Flight   
"Oh!  I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth 
Of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --
wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence.  Hov'ring there,
I've chased the wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God." 

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

I've always loved this poem, and I find it ironic that he and my uncle shared the same first and last name, though McGee is spelled differently. 


  1. I love this. It is so sweet and special to me. Of course I am crying now but I'm glad you did this in his memory. Love you, Mom

  2. What a precious tribute to your beloved uncle. Thank you for sharing him with your readers. Praying for comfort for your mom and aunt. May God Himself carry their sorrow.

    I don't know about this death community is reeling over the death of a young mother only in her thirties. Some things we don't won't understand in this lifetime.

    I commend you for getting a post written, Denise. You have fun things going on with a retired husband.

  3. Oh, how lucky you were as a teenager to have such a special uncle. I agree with Vee, thank you for sharing your story of his interesting life with us. I will pray for you all.

  4. Here's another ellen commenting. The comment above confused me for a bit but my brain kicked in and realized that it was another ellen. Sorry for the loss of your Uncle. You put together a beautiful tribute. Just yesterday I was talking to an old friend of mine and we talked about how our reunions lately have all been at funerals. I will be seeing several of our old friends and family at a memorial service coming up in June. It's a tough season to be in. It's always a comfort to know of our loved ones who were at peace with God because of Jesus Christ were ushered into heaven. May God comfort you and your family.

  5. A lovely tribute to your uncle. Thank you for sharing his story with us. My parents attend many funerals these days, too, and are losing their friends one by one. Having faith in God helps us all through difficult times, and there is hope of a wonderful reunion one day. Hugs.



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