Uncle Tony - or 'Toes', as we used to call him when we were kids - died peacefully this morning.
Dotter and I were all ready to drive down today, to see him one last time, but we were too late.
He had a very rare form of leukaemia - a type which only a few people in the world have at any given time - and we always knew his prognosis was bad, although we hoped that maybe he'd be the one to kick the trend, and live longer than the typical 11 months after remission - and he was certainly working for that goal - but it was not to be. He was exactly average (but only in this regard).
In many ways it's a relief he's gone quickly - the disease was taking a cruel toll, and it's better that he didn't linger. But I did want to see him one last time.
Uncle Toes had a crazy larrikin sense of humour, always ready with bad puns, and much silliness. He also had a tremendous generosity and kindness of heart. He was always laughing, even in the face of terrible adversity.
He was our 'naughty uncle', the one who'd bring us cups of milky tea and Vegemite toast in bed (after we'd brushed our teeth!) when all us cousins complained we had the 'hungries and thirsties!". He developed the 'Tea Dance', a funny ritual that had to be performed whenever making tea in a pot (it involved turning the pot around a certain number of times, and doing a little dance) - which was often, as he loved a good cuppa!
When he turned 60, we gave him a small glass jar of marbles, with the label "Replacement Marbles - take one as needed" ... he kept it on his office shelf.
When he was in hospital for the sessions of aggressive chemotherapy, he would befriend everyone, from the doctors to the cleaning ladies. He was the first chemo patient they'd ever seen who set up an exercise bike in his tiny room, and exercised every day, for as long as he was able. He was that kind of guy, proactive, and always looking for the best in people, and situations.
I can't bear that he's gone - far far too young (a few days short of his 66th birthday). He leaves a huge hole in my heart.
ETA : his funeral will be in Albury this Tuesday 26 May.