Monday, November 3, 2014

We Should All Be So Lucky

Last week, I had to go out of town to attend a funeral for my Uncle Sammy. 

Sammy was a veteran of the Vietnam War where he served with honor and distinction. It was also where the seeds were sown of the illnesses that would plague him for the rest of his life until they finally laid claim to him last week. Still, for all the torments that came from serving in the jungles of Vietnam and the lifetime of pain he experienced afterwards, Sammy remained devoted to his country, to the army and those he served with. 

Sammy ran a gas station in the middle of our small southern town back when "gas station" meant a place to get gas, get your car fixed and grab a cold Pepsi from the drink machine.  Sammy was literally at the center of things in our town. 

And he had brothers and sisters, a wife, children and grandchildren who loved and adored him, an affection shared throughout the whole extended family and through much of the surrounding community.

Put all of this together and it's no surprise that the visitation at the funeral home was very well attended. For nearly three hours, a line of people filed through to offer their condolences to the family and to pay their final respects to Sammy. We all should be so lucky to be so loved, so respected by so many people at the end of our lives.  

I was there to be with my mother. My mom was especially close to Sammy, her little brother. She was there to hold him when he was a baby; she was there to rub his head in the hours before he died. It was an emotional time for a woman who is not easily given to expressing sentiment.  I had my arm around her as she leaned in to give Sammy one last kiss on the forehead. We turned to leave, walking slowly as my mom clutched my arm. 

The next day was the funeral itself which was a graveside service at a private cemetery in the countryside of southeastern North Carolina. Like the visitation from the night before, the service was well attended. As part of Sammy's requests for his funeral, several people in attendance wore shirt, coats or hats in camouflage style, a tribute to the military that Sammy loved. 

My cousin, who the last time I looked was 8 years old but is now a grown man with a wife and children and the title of "reverend", lead the service. He did an excellent job with words of comfort and faith even as he shared stories of Sammy's humor and devotion to his family, his faith and his country. 

The sky was blue with patches of white clouds keeping watch from above. The sun shone bright and yellow as a soft cool breeze rustled the surrounding autumn leaves. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked.  

Death is an end we cannot avoid. So if it must come...and it must...there are few better ways to face it than surrounded by the beauty of the Earth and those who loved us. 

We should all be so lucky. 

God bless you, Uncle Sammy.


Tomorrow on the blog: 

Tuesday, November 2nd is election day in America. It's time to pick the political leaders you think will screw up the country least. Are you up for the challenge?  

Until then, be good to one another. 

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