A Love Letter to my Uncle Jack

Photo by Kelly Sikkema @kellysikkema on Unsplash

All of us, and I mean all of us, have people who touch our lives; some for good, and some for bad.

The older I get the more I realize how fortunate I am for those who helped shape me, who guided me, who took the time to show me the way.

What follows is a letter I sent to my cousin this past year, about 20 years after her father passed away too suddenly, and too young. Her father was my Uncle Jack. They lived on the fifth floor of our apartment building and we lived on the second. My brothers and I spent many a night sleeping on their apartment floor after my parents had a battle royale.

I have left her name out to protect her identity, and changed the names of others for the same reason.

Dear XXXX,

Spoiler alert. This may be a tear jerker for you so be prepared.

I went deer hunting after Thanksgiving like I have done every year for 23 years now. I was fortunate enough to shoot a spike and an 8 point.

Every time I go hunting or shooting, I always say thank you to your father. His influence on my life lasts to this day.

By him taking me hunting and fishing as a kid, I felt special. No one else, not Bobby or Nicky or the other kids on the block did that. And with how messed up my family life was, and my Dad not being around, I needed whatever I could get to make me feel special -in a good way. I don’t think you could imagine how difficult things were downstairs on the second floor.

I realize that in an indirect way, I am a doctor because of him. I went to college to study wildlife biology because of the influence he had on me; once I got there I realized that I shouldn’t give up on my dream to be a doctor. Without his influence, maybe I never would have gone to college to start with.

The older I get, I realize that life is a series of forks in the road, and the decisions we make, go left or go right, have a profound impact on who we become and where we end up.

This year especially, I was thinking about your Dad because somehow in conversation we were talking about childhood and our parents. I was telling my friends that even though my parents were divorced, I walked the straight and narrow ( no drugs, no alcohol- to this day I have never been drunk and never used any drugs, not even pot) because I knew my Mother would beat the crap out of me and then she would tell my Dad and he would too. And I remembered something your Dad said to me once, “ And so help me, after they are done with you it will be my turn, and I will beat the hell out of you. “

I realized that what he said left a major impact on me, not for fear of the beating, but for fear of letting him down. I respected your father- he was the male figure who showed me what a man should be: hard working, faithful to his family, kind to those who deserved it, and no alcohol needed- to be a man.

I will be 60 in a few months. I have had a wonderful life, more than I could ever have dreamed of back at apartment 2C. All these years later, your Dad’s influence still touches me. I only hope that if he were alive he would be proud of the man that I have become. I still don’t want to let him down, even now.

I wanted to tell you all of this because I want you to know how much I loved him, and how thankful I am that he touched my life, in more ways then he ever knew. And maybe, by telling you, he will somehow know how much he means to me.

I love you XXXX.


Tell somebody who has touched your life how much you love them and how much they have helped you. Don’t wait, do it now.

Husband & Dad. Physician, Author

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Kenneth Burke, M.D.

Kenneth Burke, M.D.

Husband & Dad. Physician, Author

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