This weekend I attended the funeral of my uncle, Edward Minicozzi. But before I tell you that story, let me first tell you this story.
I remember really liking Uncle Eddie ever since I was little, but I’d always been a little intimidated by him. He seemed larger than life. My uncle and aunt had a very nice house with lots of nice stuff; to be blunt they were the wealthiest people in our extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. They weren’t uber-rich by any scale, and my parents certainly weren’t poor, but the difference was enough that a child would notice.
As I grew older, I started to understand why he was so successful: He worked hard and he treated people well. If that’s not a formula for success, I don’t know what is. And this weekend, I got to see just how successful he really was.
My personal experience with my uncle was that he was generous—I only asked him for a few favors over the years and he’d say yes without hesitation—but until arriving at his wake yesterday, I had NO IDEA just how generous he was.
The line of people waiting to enter the funeral home stretched around the corner and down the street. Half a dozen fire stations sent trucks to hang a huge American flag from their ladders in his honor. There were five viewings over three days, and each was just as crowded as the previous one. It’s estimated that 2000 people showed up to pay their respects and say goodbye. (2000 people is the size of the student body at the college I went to.) And everyone I talked to or overheard talking about him had some story of generosity or kindness to share.
That’s when I realized what it means to be truly rich, truly wealthy.
To put it simply, I’m inspired. His obituary is amazing. The list of groups and causes that he gave time, energy, money, and heart to reads like a directory of charitable organizations. He did not keep this part of his life a secret, but he didn’t brag about it either. He acted in generous ways because that’s who he was, and those who were paying attention learned valuable lessons in contribution (as his three sons can attest). I wish I’d paid more attention.
My experience this weekend has made me take a good look at what I have to give and how I can give more, how I can be more like this amazing man. The priest at the funeral mass said that maybe he seemed larger than life to some of us because our view of life is too small. Uncle Eddie saw a much bigger version of life, full of possibility.
I share this for those of you who would like to be inspired to see life full of possibility, to be inspired to play a bigger game, to be inspired to become as “rich” as my Uncle Eddie.
Here’s his online obituary: