My uncle Earl has never said a word to me. He never picked me up when I fell down as a kid. Never called just to see how I was doing. And yet, he was one of the most amazing and inspiring people I have ever known. When he was just 6 months old, he contracted spinal meningitis, which left him partially paralyzed, brain damaged and afflicted with epilepsy. Doctors gravely informed my grandma that he would never live to see the age of 7 and that he should just be sent away to wait for that young death. My grandmother refused to institutionalize him, as was expected back then, and took care of him for the rest of her life. When I was a kid, Earl could still spend time in his wheelchair and yell for my grandma when he needed her. As time passed, he became completely confined to a hospital bed and his limbs became more and more atrophied. But he never stopped loving and teaching my family about love and life. He never let his limitations stop him from enjoying life. He flirted with pretty girls, brushing his hair for them and smiling slyly at them before beckoning them closer. He expected, and received, kisses from all his visitors–he did not care if it was one of my big burly cousins or one of his sisters. And we all gave him the desired greeting without hesitation or embarrassment. Earl let us know in countless ways that he understood us and, often, that he felt that we were all a bit bonkers. He would laugh with us and laugh at us. He would listen to our woes and share in our triumphs. For all of his 67 years (take that you dumb ol’ doctors!), he never showed any bitterness or self-pity or despair over the hand fate had dealt him. Instead, he just lived his life and enriched the lives of everyone who ever knew him. I will miss him more than I can express. We all will.