My Dad’s family is ginormous. Really, he’s one of like 13 siblings! Recently, his brother, my uncle, Len died.
Although lots of my Dad’s siblings had moved to various other parts of the country, my Uncle Len chose to remain in northern Maine (up until the last few years, anyway). As such, I got to know him growing up. He was quiet, but funny. He never had kids, but he clearly cared about his nephews (my brothers and I are the only ones I am qualified to talk about). I would work summer jobs of carpentry with him and my Dad. We cut, split, and stacked our share of wood together for my grandmother, his mom, Marie.
He was as active as his injuries would allow him to be. He was a US Marine in Vietnam. When I was deciding where to enlist, his quiet dignity and pride in his time of service helped convince me to also become a Marine.
So, he was my uncle, but also my brother… a brother in service to our nation, a brother in the Marine Corps.
He died down in Tennessee, but was eventually brought up to northern Maine to be buried near his own parents. I drove up for the service, and was able to perform some music during the Mass (everyone is Catholic in northern Maine, just about). A Marine Corps color guard had driven up from Boston to give him his military honors and present the US Flag to my eldest surviving aunt and uncle, and my Dad.
In the days preceding the service, I put together this arrangement of Amazing Grace. I mean, it’s a great song, but it’s also done at military funerals, so it all just seemed to fit. I like bagpipe versions of the song, so I added a “drone” in the first few chords: I keep on the low-G string through the C, C7, Fadd9, and back to C. (The chart is on the Ukulele Page).
No one knew that I was trying to mimic a bagpipe with my ukulele… that wasn’t the point. It was just a little something extra, a little something special for my uncle… just a little something to say “thank you” and “goodbye” and “I love you” and “Semper Fi” all at the same time. Because he deserved it.