Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the tag “death”

Love Is Not Abstract

It was a good funeral for a good man.

Martin’s funeral was yesterday. We used to practice law in the same firm a couple decades ago. I liked him. When I learned of his death, I planned to attend the funeral and I am glad that I did.

His widow, grown daughters, sons in law, grandchildren, and even one great grandchild filled the first several pews of the sanctuary. Part of the service involved some of his granddaughters giving sweet tributes to him. It was clear that they loved their grampa and are sadly mourning his new absence from their lives. They will miss his involvement with them on this side of Heaven.

The priest gave a good homily. He referred to the many references to love in the abstract in our culture — in songs and romantic movies, in advertising and Valentine cards. But in reality, love is not abstract. It is concrete. It is shown in how we participate in each others’ lives. It is shown in how we interact with our family and friends. It is demonstrated in how we live with our spouses.

And here is a powerful truth: Love does not die. It lasts well after a loved one leaves this life.

I have no doubt that Martin was, and is still, well-loved. He must have loved those people who miss him so because they clearly loved him and always will. I believe that Martin still loves them right back.

Two Calls

The baby arrived after a struggle.

The long labor had been induced,

yet after 26 hours,

the decision was made

to deliver  him by C-section.

So Braxton finally arrived

as yesterday’s newest Texan.

We heard all about the birth

in a phone conversation

with his relieved Grampa,

my wife’s brother.

Within a few hours

I answered another call.

My good friend, Walt,

told me that his son,

Bill, had died, and

he thought I should know.

It was not expected.

Bill, a mere 36 years old,

had a great smile

that charmed everyone

by revealing a glimpse

of his kind heart

through the twinkle

in his eyes.

Bill and Braxton

might have passed

each other

as one soul came

and one soul left.

One came from Heaven.

One returned to Heaven.

God knows them both

and loves them both.

Two calls about two sons.

Hello.  Goodbye.

Sunrise.  Sunset.

A time for every purpose

under Heaven.

Sunset, Sunrise

westview

The world turns.  The sun sets and rises and sets and rises.

Each day there are tragedies and there are victories.

There are births and there are deaths.

There is happiness and sadness and emotions in between.

Every day.

Two days ago the world was aghast at the devastation and the deaths caused by the tornadoes in Oklahoma.  I felt very sad watching the news about the destruction.  I was horrified that two elementary schools were leveled.  Those poor children!

Yesterday, I called the home number of a friend to see if he and his wife were coming to our John Wayne party on Saturday, as I had not gotten a response to the e-vite that we sent to them.

The wife answered.  I cheerfully asked her, like we often do in starting a conversation, how she was doing.

The usual response is something like, “Fine.  How are you?”

She was not fine.  She told me that her husband “died last night.”

While people died in the tornado in Oklahoma, he died in Colorado, of cancer.  He had told me that he was doing chemotherapy.  A few weeks ago, in our last phone conversation, he said it would be completed in three more sessions and we could get together in May when he would have more energy.

While my wife and I prepared for a party, my friend was breathing his final breaths.

His daughter got on the phone.  She had flown in from New York City, where she is attending graduate school.  She had been with her parents for the past week, for the last week with her father.  She told me the services will be Friday.  She asked me to say a few words.  Of course, I am willing to do so.  I want to show my respect.  I want to honor her father’s memory.

I will go to the funeral on Friday, which is my birthday.

On Saturday we will have our annual John Wayne Party at the ranch.  The party that my friend attended in other years.

“There is a time to be born and a time to die…  A time to mourn and a time to dance… A time to weep and a time to laugh….”  Ecclesiastes 3.

Life goes on as we each feel different emotions in ever-changing moments when the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord, Who is with us in all those experiences.

Not Forgotten and Not Gone

Today is the funeral for a young man,

The son of a friend.

He was 23.

He won’t be 24.

Hopelessness yesterday.

A funeral today.

Here today, gone tomorrow.

Gone today, gone tomorrow.

Gone tomorrow, gone the next day.

Gone except in memories of those who cared.

Here in loving hearts.

There with the Lord.

Even death cannot separate us from the love of God.

Even death cannot separate us from those we love.

Here yesterday.  Still here today.

In Remembrance

Today is my father’s birthday.  He was born in 1924.  In a previous post, Something for Dad, I mentioned that he epitomized The Greatest Generation that Tom Brokaw wrote about.  I also proudly quoted the therapist who told me, “They don’t make guys like that anymore.”  They don’t.

Dad was born at home, in a house by the park in Craig, Nebraska, the youngest of four.  He had one brother and two sisters.  In his family, he was called Johnny.  Craig was a very small town, maybe 300 people.  Johnny’s graduating class was very small, less than 20 as I recall.  He graduated at age 16 because they did not have kindergarten.

He went to college for one year, then worked for the Union Pacific Railroad for a few months until he was old enough to join the Army in WWII.  In 1945, at age 21, he had served in England when it was being bombed, then France after D Day, and Belgium for Battle of the Bulge.  After Germany surrendered that year, he was in California on his way to the Pacific theatre when Japan surrendered, so he got to go home instead.

He went to college at Omaha University on the G.I. Bill.  He graduated in 2  years.  He went to school more than full-time, worked part-time, and even fit in varsity tennis and lettered.  He met my mother at O.U. and they married in March 1948, before he turned 24. 

The yearbook in 1948 included the goals of each senior.  Most wrote about career plans.  Johnny wrote something about being a good husband and father.  He fulfilled both.  Actually, he exceeded his goals.  He was great, not just good.  He was the best.

His first job out of college he stuck with for 35 years.  He worked at a bank, starting as a teller and rising to V.P. and Trust Officer.

He was married to my mother for the rest of his life, from 1948 until 2003.  They got to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Without describing the many events during those many years, I ask you to use your imagination.  What you imagine about a devoted family man is likely true of my Dad.

It was a privilege to be his son.  

Happy Birthday, Dad!  I love you — always!

Sharpshooter

My trophy wife, Sugar, was outside with the dogs while I watched Chisum.  As it turned out, viewing the John Wayne movie was a good way to prepare for my imminent deadly showdown.

I heard my wife’s alarming scream.  Then she called out to me, “Al, come out here.  Hurry!”  I moseyed up from the couch, ever obedient, ever vigilent.

I still did not know what she was frightened about.  (Girls can be overly dramatic and mysterious).  I empathetically inquired about what was troubling her.  Her response was not responsive to my question.  She uncalmly commanded, “Get a gun.”  Well, that was the main idea.  She was much more eloquent.

As an aside, in order to give some background to the scenario, I want you, gentle readers, to be informed that Sugar grew up in Texas.  Also, she is of Italian extraction.  You may combine your prejudiced stereotypes as you imagine  her emotional communication.

Further, Sugar’s desire that I bring a gun was not unrealistic.  I possess several firearms, including a pair of Colt .45s in a quickdraw holster, various rifles, and a couple shotguns.  They are part of the decor of our mountain cabin and readily available.  The NRA sends emails to me daily concerning unconstitutional threats to gun ownership.  I also am a member of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) which sponsors cowboy shooting competitions.  My SASS alias is Big Bronc.  Her’s is Miss Sugar.  Clearly, it was not unreasonable for her to ask me to get a gun.

So I emerged from the front door unarmed.  Sometimes I opt for hand-to-hand combat.  I wanted to assess the enemy’s strength before selecting a weapon.  I try to make it a fair fight.  No sense wasting ammo.

“Who needs killin’?  It don’t make me no nevermind.”   I stated the obvious.  “Womenfolk got nothin’ to fear when Big Bronc is around.  I will fight to the death anyone that threatens you and them yeller dogs.”   This little gal surely knew she could count on me.

“Oh, Big Bronc, there is an evil rattlesnake down there.  Please protect me and our precious pets.  You are so brave and strong and handsome.”  Those were not her exact words, but I knew that was what she desired to tell me.

“Get the shotgun with the snakeshot shells!,” Miss Sugar daintily suggested.  “Shoot it from up here on the porch so you don’t git yerself kilt.  I ain’t in the mood to call no hearst.”  She doesn’t talk like that either, but it would sound more like an authenic western story if she would have.

So I went to the toolshed and got a shovel.  I know she wanted me to use a gun, but this particular shovel is a narrow type of spade known in these here parts as a “sharpshooter.”   It is a weapon with which I have beheaded unfortunate snakes in the past.  Yes, this was fixin’ to be a fight to the death.

Miss Texas noticed what I had selected.  “You dang fool!  That rattler is going to bite you.  They can strike further than that little shovel.”  I wish she didn’t talk like that.

So I walked over to the snake, carrying only the sharpshooter shovel.

It was coiled and shaking its rattles.  It was a mean one, poised to strike.

Women are no help at a time like this.  I didn’t need some girly girl weeping about me.  I can take care of myself.  Still, through it all, I could hear Sugar’s sweet voice.  “Watch out, you idiot.  He is going to strike.”  I supposed that she was addressing the snake, giving him one last chance to retreat.  That is certainly how I took it.

Members of the general public are not usually quick enough or coordinated enough or brave enough to attempt what I was about to do.  That mean old snake probably did not recognize who he was facing.  He probably thought I was a member of the general public.

Instead, he was dealin’ with Big Bronc, the toughest hombre north of the Pecos, or at least the North Poudre Irrigation Canal.

I met his steely glare.  He didn’t show any fear as he hissed and rattled, but I had a feelin’ that, deep inside his cold heart and reptile brain, he knew this showdown would be his last.

My calloused hand was ready for action.

“Say when.”  I confidently offered him that advantage as I smirked.  (I have found that smirking intimidates.)

The tension grew.  Then Old Snake Eye made his move.  It was the moment of truth.   Or consequences.  One of us would soon be dead as a doornail.  He had my vote.

A blood-curdling scream broke the tense silence.  (Sometimes smirking alone is not intimidating enough.  One has to be adaptable when engaged in a fight to the death.)  I should not have called it a scream.  It was more like a war-cry.  A manly war-cry.

Well, I’m here to tell you that with one lightning fast blow, I pinned that coiled snake to the ground.  The blade of the sharpshooter got it right behind its open-mouthed head.  I did not let up until I cut its head clean off. Sugar warned that the venom is still dangerous, even after it was beheaded.  Like I don’t know that.

I scooped the detached head into the shovel and proudly showed her the proof of my victory, waiting for her to praise my skill and courage.  She did not express her admiration in words, but I could see it in her eyes.

“Shucks, M’aam.  It weren’t nothing any old hero wouldn’t do.”

I could tell she longed to reward me with a kiss.  There was things I had to take care of first.  After disposing of my vanquished foe, I put my trusty sharpshooter back in the shed and quietly rode off into the sunset.

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