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What I Learned from My Uncle

Last week, I went to my Uncle’s funeral.

He was a great person. He cared about people. People cared about him, but I think he would have cared about others even if they didn’t care back. He enjoyed life and because of that he helped others around him enjoy life. That isn’t a small thing.

You could feel this at his funeral. There was a positive energy as people talked about him that was contagious.

My uncle wasn’t famous. I don’t think he ever went “viral” or had a million followers. He wasn’t an “influencer.”

He simply did his job and loved his family and helped people. Because he loved baseball, he played it. He liked stupid jokes so he told them. Over and over.

Hearing how he helped people simply by telling them they were doing a good job or telling a mom with a colicky baby that what she was doing (walking back and forth in a church foyer while her child cried) was important and would help generations made me realize that maybe I focus on the wrong things.

I’ve had a difficult time staying home with my kids. I’d always wanted a “big” life. I never knew what that meant exactly, but I knew I wanted to help humanity or a cause or something more than myself.

Instead of graduating law school and joining a nonprofit or a large firm, I had a baby. I stayed home with that baby because we were in New York for only two years and that made sense. Then it made sense to stay home when I passed the bar in Montana because I was pregnant again and Kevin was starting a dental practice and for some reason, that takes more than one person. There always seemed to be one more thing or reason that I stay home. It made sense when all of the kids were little, but when they went to school there was an expectation I would do more.

I tried being a substitute but I was asked why I wasn’t a lawyer. I tried focusing on writing more, but that hasn’t made much money. It felt like I was never enough.

On the way back from the funeral, I started listening to Brené Brown’s latest book Braving the Wilderness. Her book is about belonging and I realized I was looking for my place to belong.

My uncle was a successful business owner and he belonged to service clubs, but the stories people told were experiences they had with him, not an organization or business he belonged to.

I thought, “Maybe I should focus on the interactions I have with individuals rather than a group or organization.”

Maybe by helping a neighbor or helping a friend makes my life bigger than I realize. It sure made my uncle seem big in my eyes.

Maybe I should start being more there when I am with my kids and husband. Maybe I should realize I already belong in the life I have instead of trying to find a different one. I may do small things, but supposedly a butterfly in Africa can cause a hurricane. Maybe I need to focus on being a better me and see what hurricanes follow.

I may not have spent a lot of time with my uncle, but I sure did learn a lot from him.



  1. Megan Goates says:

    This is lovely. Thank you.

    1. Marianne Hansen says:


  2. Carrie Miller says:

    I know those feelings you describe. I can relate to your struggle. I appreciate this post more than I can put into words! Thank you Marianne!

    1. Marianne Hansen says:

      Thank you!

  3. Norma says:

    Thanks, Marianne. You ARE somebody. I love that you are just YOU. You don’t pretend to be anyone else. Does any of this make sense? Anyway, you are special to me

    1. Marianne Hansen says:

      Thank you! I appreciate that immensely!

  4. Mary Jane Hansen says:

    Thank you for these wonderful words. You mean an awful lot to me and you are someone in my life that is very special. I am so greateful to be your Mom. This was a very special tribute to Carter, he was a very special person and did do a lot for people. Kathy was blessed to have him in her life and I am very greatful to have you in my life.

    1. Marianne Hansen says:

      Thanks Mom!

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