Monday, January 12, 2015

Another angel...

Gillis 'Gil' Murray
November 23, 1930 - January 9, 2015
I've decided that I don't like being my age anymore. Along with the aches and pains, there is the unwelcome and increased number of sad goodbyes I have to make. And, with the exception of my parents, I've just had to say the saddest goodbye yet.

This past Friday night, January 9th, my darling uncle, Gil Murray, died at the age of 84. Gil had been having heart problems over the last couple of years and had recently gone to hospital with shortness of breath. My aunt reports that he was doing well and scheming to get home again. And then, as they were talking, his speech suddenly slurred. A few hours later, he died. It was a brain haemorrhage. What was an incredibly well-timed blessing is that Gil and Patsy had just returned home from a wonderful Caribbean cruise with the whole family. My cousin Todd's wife, Ina, assured me that when the cruise ended, Gil could have been in no doubt at all that he was so very, very much loved by everyone. I would imagine that you could extend that everyone to include all those who knew Gil during his lifetime. He was simply one of the most genuine, loving, funny and talented men I ever knew. And I loved him so much. Patsy said the cruise ended up being an amazing farewell party. As my cousin Jane and I agreed, we should all be so lucky as to shuffle off this mortal coil as he did - full of love and without pain, with a heart full of family and joy. And, as Jane said, her world - and mine - is a duller place without him in it.

My uncle was the youngest of three children, with my late uncle Davy the oldest and my mum, the middle child. He was the baby of the family and was doted on by his mother, much to my mother and Uncle Davy's annoyance. But in spite of that, they adored him - how could they not? And as he got older - tall and gangly and athletic - his charm grew with him.

Gil was born in Boston and, like his siblings before him, was a bright and creative person. He attended Shady Hill School, Phillips Andover Academy, and Harvard, where he was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club. He spent his working years as a graphic and industrial designer, but his heart lay in the creativity that resulted in cartoons, poetry and beautiful paintings. Some of his cartoons were published in The New Yorker and he was commissioned by Boston's Central Tunnel and Bridge Authority to paint "The Big Dig" in the early 80s. (I am proud to own several of Gil's paintings of my hometown of Staunton, Virginia.) Gil loved camping and biking and swimming and I was often impressed by his swimming in Massachusetts Bay in late May when it must have been so very chilly. His energy appeared to be endless. He has four wonderful children - my cousins Alex (Sandy), David, Wendy and Todd - and two stepsons and eight beautiful grandchildren.

I remember spending some time with Gil and his family, when he was still married to his first wife Polly, in the summer of 1976. I had secured a summer job with a summer stock theatre company in Connecticut. Gil and family lived in Old Lyme, and I loved my time with them. Todd and I struck up a friendship over our deep love of the Beatles, and I remember feeling very dwarfed by the entire family - all of them very tall, having gained their stature from my maternal grandfather's side and from their mother's side. I also remember Polly standing at the sink one evening, looking out the window at the five people running about in the yard. She turned to me, with a broad smile on her face, and said, "You know, I don't have four children. I have five."

To say Gil was young at heart would be an understatement. In ways, he was very much like my father - full of wonder and laughter and sheer amazement at all the wonderful things he found in the world. He and I talked a lot over the years. And, over the last couple of years, we talked longingly about how wonderful it would be if he and Patsy could come over and camp in our garden, and we would fill our days with drinking in the beautiful sights of the Scottish Highlands. How I wish that could have been.

I wouldn't have been able to get through the months and weeks leading up to mother's death without him. He and I spoke so often then. He and my mother loved each other so much. I take great comfort in knowing that they may now be together once more. My mother and her 'kid brother' who was the light of her life and the light of so many other lives.

I am going to miss my wonderful uncle so much. He was a joy and living proof that you can live your dreams, no matter your age. As much as I miss him, I know his death must be so hard on his children and grandchildren. But how blessed we all were to have had him in our lives.

I love you, Gil Murray. Sweet dreams and shine bright in the heavens.