My great uncle died Sunday night after a long and painful decline and today is the funeral. I only met him in person once, when I was eight, but the impact he had on my mother’s life, especially in these last years, was immense. My best memory of him was the summer I decided I was going to sky-dive, no matter what my parents said. I informed Uncle Mal of this over the phone, and the WWII quartermaster, completely unfazed, said, “I see. Tell me, do you ride a lot of rollercoasters?” When I said no, he said, “Spend two dollars on the Cyclone at Coney Island. If you still want to jump out of a plane after that, be my guest.” After riding the Cyclone and finding out what my spleen tasted like, I decided to save myself a few hundred bucks and give the extreme sport a pass.