Outliving A Loved One–In Loving Memory of My Uncle


“No offense, but I hope I outlive you,” I laughed, after explaining that I was given an 80% chance of 2-3 years before the cancer returned.

“You should do,” Uncle Ian replied.

But now that Uncle Ian has actually left the world, I wish I didn’t outlive him. I was just playing. He’s leaving behind so much family.

Maladaptive or not, one of the ways I sometimes cope with being young and cancerous is to think, “If I die now, at least I won’t leave behind a husband or kids.” I don’t mean to come off fatalistic. It’s just a less cliché version of, “It could always be worse,” that helps me live with the ongoing threat of a shorter stay on this planet.

Until our reunion in more recent years, my memories of Uncle Ian were limited to fuzzy images of his taller-than-I-could-see-the-top-of build and cheery pink complexion – one of the sets of grown-up hips and elbows that framed my early childhood memories in Hong Kong and England.

It wasn’t until after cancer hit, that I found the courage to reconnect with family members who were estranged as a consequence of my parents’ divorce. Before cancer, I worried about the possibility of rejection. But almost dying made me grow a pair – so to speak. I knew it was now or never.

Over these past years of getting to know Uncle Ian, he became so much more to me than the accomplished politician, innovator, and thought leader that characterized his professional career. He is the soul mate to one of my favorite people on the planet, my Auntie Ophelia, and lovable patriarch to their kids and grandkids. He told me endless life stories with humility and pride, and helped me fill in the blanks of otherwise lost family history. I feel damn lucky that I got to experience even a drop of his wisdom, wit, integrity, and generosity.

Not to mention, he was a tough Words With Friends player, who hesitated to even start a new game with me when I asked, because he already had five games going. After I somehow convinced him to start a sixth game with me anyway, I eventually got an email from him one day warning, “It’s been five days since you put down a word.”

On April 14, 2016, Ian Macpherson peacefully left the world. Today, he was laid to rest in a ceremony of thanksgiving for his life at St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong.

Uncle Ian, you are so very loved and missed.

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