Today Facebook reminded me that a loved one is dead.

Oh, it didn’t mean to. Facebook doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a program, after all. And to my knowledge, no one informed Facebook that he’s dead. (There is a procedure for that on various social media sites.)

Seeing my Uncle John’s face in my news feed was a shock, and Facebook’s suggestion that I wish him a happy birthday opened up a floodgate of memories. His son Matt and I grew up together. Our parents were close friends before we came along, so naturally we grew up together.

I called Matt’s dad “Uncle,” but he was more than that. He was like a father. He played with us; brought us to Bible studies; helped us with our memory work. He yelled at us, too, because we were hooligans, and we sometimes did stupid things (as kids are wont to do). His love for us was obvious.

Uncle John died too young, but the last time I saw him is not the memory I keep of him. Sickness had taken away all the things that were the best of him: a razor sharp wit, a fantastic (if pun-loving) sense of humor, a deep kindness and care for those he loved. I am proud to have known him, and I am glad he had the opportunity to meet my wife and daughter before he passed on.

Happy birthday, Uncle John. I love you.

Husband. Daddy. Programmer. Artist. I’m not an expert, I just play one in real life.