My heart broke again on March 11, 2014 when I learned that my uncle, Louis Larsen died.

The previous fractures of my heart occurred when Uncle Louis’ siblings left us. My Uncle Bjarne sailed away in 1968. My Uncle Dagbard in 1979. Five years later, my dear, wonderful (widowed) mother, Nickolene left us on a hot summer day. Her death tore my soul into pieces that have never completely mended. Twenty-three years later I lost Aunt Olga, my mother’s post-retirement companion who brought me great joy and frustration, simultaneously. I can smile and cry at the same time when I think of my mother and Olga together, because they each overlooked each other’s faults because they knew they were better off together than apart.

While the passing of each sibling hurt in the “normal” way, I realize now that Uncle Louis’ passing hurts a lot — for the usual reasons like him just not being here, but also because this is the final scene by a remarkable generation of individuals. I fear the secret of their rewarding lives might be lost in the shuffle.

The story of the Larsen family is the story of the American Dream — immigrants from another country who found great success on the shores of this great nation. The dream played out right in front of our eyes, and the secret of its success is that it happened without anyone of us noticing the reason why, including the Larsens themselves. They were only doing what they knew was right. The irony of the story is that all of the successes the Larsens enjoy today is the result of giving, not taking. I live in great fear that we will never see another set of people give and give and give as if their life depended on it, instead of take and take and take, which has seemed to become the expectation and mantra of our times.

I dare you to name a person who didn’t visit the Louis Larsen home without being offered food to eat. I dare you to find a downtrodden person who the Larsens ignored. I dare you to ask anyone of the many Larsen relatives across this great country if they remember anything but kindness, generosity, love and food coming from that big white house in the center of Chilmark. I dare you!

Uncle Louis, I hope you rest in peace. Whenever you were around, it seemed like everything was going to be okay. You lived a life that was full of the love of life. I watched you give and give and give and regret that you hadn’t given enough. I hope and pray that your lesson is the lesson I pass onto my sons — that you can never give enough!

While there were tears of sadness on earth on the day you died, I’m sure there were shouts of joy in heaven when you entered its gates. Shouts of joy for a life well lived that set an example for the rest of us. I am proud, honored and humble to be part of the family.