He was diagnosed with a cancer so aggressive that it quickly consumed him forcing doctors to deliver the terrifying news: he had approximately six months to live. An unfortunate, premature death sentence. A clock with a preset alarm where the seconds stood frozen one behind the other until all at once they flew by under the disguise of minutes. A final countdown.
Six months, they said. That was six weeks ago. We attended his funeral Sunday afternoon.
With summer weather masquerading under the mask of an autumn day, his family gathered and attempted to see through the flag covering his casket to remember him and to honor him and to recollect and mentally catalogue every memory involving him. Two attending Airmen stepped forward placing their white gloved hands on each corner of the American flag. A third lifted a bugle to his lips, playing a soundtrack of broken hearts and brave souls. Several others stood in line among the firing squad and with each shot helped reality settle in. This was a final, farewell salute. Stripe over stripe we watched the flag disappear into a triangle of stars before it was finally, on bended knee, presented to his late wife. She wept. We all did.
Allison’s uncle was a retired member of the Air Force. He was a decorated Airman that served 43 years total protecting those he loved, those he just met and those he never knew. He was a son and a brother. He was a husband, a father and a grandfather. Above all else, he was a great man.
A great man with a gift for storytelling. Five minutes after meeting him you found yourself looking for a seat, you found the need to pull up a chair and soak in every detail of every life experience he was willing to share. It was impossible to walk away from a conversation empty handed as you held onto every word he delivered. Each story he recounted was wrapped in humility and unfolded to reveal the desire of a better you… a better me… because along the way he found a better him. In the end, we’re all aspiring to find better versions of ourselves. A task, like many others, he succeeded in completing then spent the rest of his time helping others do the same.
Beneath the Purple Heart pinned to his chest was a heart of gold.