College of Arts and Sciences

All saints

Leave it to my Uncle Oral to die unexpectedly this week on All Saints Day.

Had that been his plan, I'm sure he would have penned a poem grumbling that he'd aimed for Halloween but missed. Oral was funny that way. Poetry was one of the healthier ways he battled the demons one encounters in this life. Another was painting. Arts he taught himself.

Oral always showed up when I needed him. Like when he dropped everything on short notice to drive me 700 miles to start college.

I don't remember Oral telling me what a privilege college was -- one he and most of his siblings never experienced but Oral especially would have treasured.

But sometimes when I meet one of our first-generation students, I imagine Oral in their place. He was hard-working, clever, and immensely curious about life, the universe, and everything. And somehow both goofy and darkly funny. I'm sure Oral would have been an English major. Or an Art major. Or maybe a Philosopher or a Theologian.

My secret dream had been to help Oral experience a taste of college in some future retirement. Turns out he worked right up to the end, practicing his craft expertly in a small painting and wallpapering business.

Had they ever met,
Father B. would have greeted Oral as a saint. And although Oral's own sisters and brothers would teasingly protest that appellation, that's how I'll choose to remember Oral this week.

May he and all the saints who have graced your own lives rest peacefully. And may we find ways to support and appreciate those who still live among us.

David Mengel

painting by Oral Nussbaum

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