Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Remembering Uncle Pat

Tim Lilley

I’m thinking about my late Uncle Pat as I write this. He comes to mind every year about this time because Veterans Day is Nov. 11. Uncle Pat, one of Dad’s brothers, clearly had his guardian angel along during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.

I don’t know whether it happened in Belgium, France or Luxembourg – all three suffered the German advance in the winter of 1944-45 that became known as the Battle of the Bulge – but somewhere along the front, my uncle got hit in the lower torso by machine-gun fire. By the grace of God – and that Guardian Angel, which I am certain was with him – my uncle survived. He lived another 20 years before cardiac arrest claimed him.

His heart disease certainly was impacted by bouts of drinking – and those undoubtedly were prompted by what he endured at the end of WWII.  As I was growing up, however, I never recall him being angry, bitter or violent. He didn’t always practice his Catholic faith; well, he didn’t always go to Mass. I suspect he prayed often because I don’t believe anyone could get through what he did without a close relationship with God.

I chose Patrick as my confirmation name … because of him. In retrospect – and based on what I find online these days – my motivation may have been misguided. Nobody questioned my choice at the time, and I believe there are two good reasons for that: 1) We Catholics know Patrick as a saint; and 2) my parents and I were lifelong members of my hometown’s Irish-Catholic parish. It probably made perfect sense that I would choose Patrick.

It sure made perfect sense to me – although not for the reasons others may have contemplated in reaching that conclusion.

He loved his family – his daughter, his brothers and sisters, his nieces and nephews. I always sensed a genuine joy in him when he visited. He always left me feeling as though he considered time with my parents and me – and his other siblings and their children – as the most special time he had. As I think about him now, on the eve of another Veterans Day, that makes perfect sense.

He survived the second most lethal battle for Americans in WWII. The Battle of the Bulge claimed more than 19,000 U.S. lives. Friends, those soldiers could fill the Ford Center to capacity almost two times; it seats 10,000.

Uncle Pat clearly knew he’d been blessed, and he made sure that everyone he came in contact with knew that he truly cared about them and was grateful for the time he had with them. This was especially true during those family gatherings that brought all the brothers together – Dad, Uncle Pat and their brothers Art, Bill, Bob, Jim and Tom.

I suppose – and I hope – many of you have memories like these. I hope you will join me in remembering all veterans on Nov. 11. I’ll be thinking of and praying for Uncle Pat. I never had a chance to tell him that he was one of the strongest and most courageous men I knew. He still is.