My uncle passed away 10 years ago, just before my son was born. He was one of those people in my life that anchored me. When I was very little he was still unmarried and young, studying in America. I remember him playing with me, scolding me, and somehow loving me like I was the best thing to happen in life.

I fondly remember things he did for me, like making the funky bookshelf for my bedroom with my dad. He loved to play with me in that way a young uncle can, rolling me on the floor like a ball, while I giggled uncontrollably somersaulting across the carpet.

I turned 4 a few days before my sister was born. My uncle was the one at home with me while my dad and mom brought home the baby. Like many 20-somethings in school, he was in his room trying to catch up on sleep, but of course I was so excited and full of energy so I kept disturbing him, “Are they here yet, are they coming soon?”

Eventually he moved back to India after receiving his degree in architecture and so our relationship continued across seas. When I was 7, I went to stay with my grandparents and still unmarried uncle in India for the summer. Most of the time, I slept with my uncle because I was too afraid to sleep in my room by myself. With the light on at night, he would be working on something while I read my Enid Blyton mystery novels.

A few years later, he would give me my first camera. The flat kind with the 110 cartridge. We were at Qutab Minar, the ancient ruins near Delhi. It was as though he knew something about me I would only discover much later in myself. If only he could see one of my favorite photos of the tower through the lens of my adult camera, carrying the imprint of his touch.

As the years passed, I grew up. He had two boys and quietly considered me his “girl.” When things got rough for me, he sat with me, asking few questions, imparting his wisdom sparingly as was his way. I always knew he was unconditional. At my wedding, he read from Rumi and surprised us all by joining my aunt, his wife at the end of her dance, honoring my marriage at the deepest level. It was the only family wedding at which he danced.

But even as I write down these memories, words seem to fail in describing my heart’s song about this being. And while I know without a doubt I will see him again in another lifetime, in this one, he is the one person I miss so much it sometimes hurts.

I wish I could show him how I’ve become a mother of two remarkable people. I wish I could see my home through his architectural eyes. I wish I could sit quietly next to him again and again.

My last conversation with him remains vivid in my mind. The day before his surgery. I was 7 months pregnant with my son, calling from my office at work. He was asking me how I felt about having my second. He told me how he remembered after my sister was born how jealous I felt of his time. He was holding her and I said to my dad incredulously, “But why does he need to hold her?” Little did I know, he was holding me too and has been ever since. I can still feel the sound of his voice, how his smile carried through his words and found their way to my heart for the last time that day.

Death is one of the only things we know for sure. And birth. But death that comes untimely is more difficult. Like a tearing at our fabric on some deep level that never fully heals.

So today as I reminisce about this remarkable person and my grief rises, I am also washed over by the gratitude of the time we spent together. Of his infinite blessings in my life and of my cherished memories, still warming my heart as if he were sitting right here beside me.