Service

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It's official: as of last night I no longer can count a single WWII veteran among my acquaintances. I've long used this as an unspoken yardstick against mortality. I've watched these veterans, in our family and social circles, leave this world one by one and now the last one I knew has passed.

G may have been a couple of generations older than me but this didn't impact how my husband and I saw him as a friend. Sadly, we allowed ourselves to be too consumed with work to get to visit him in his final days and I'm aggravated at myself over this. There is no excuse.

When I started going to church again regularly (after years of disillusionment), G was one of the first people I met. I always felt comfortable around him; he had lived too long and seen too much to turn around and view anyone with any sort of spiritual suspicion. He wore his best flannel shirt and took the hat off his head when the opening songs began. 

He was the only man to ever get me a baby shower gift. I remember writing thank yous and poring over the cards I'd saved; amongst the pile of flowery notes in women's script was a simple card with the word "BOY" on the front and inside G's shaky scrawl. I still have this card. I wrote him a thank you note in careful print so that he could read it. After I had Ewan he gave me a framed copy of something he wrote, an essay about how women are a blessing.

He wrote essays every week and made copies on the church's Xerox machine before distributing them to the congregation every Sunday morning before the sermon. Sometimes he gave you two copies. I always missed the first part of the sermon reading them. I think G knew it, too, and after a while I noticed that intentional or not, he gave me my copy after the service. He was a fantastic writer. He wrote with a humility that can only be attained by a long life of trial and error. There was an urgency in his words, through them he tried to gift others the benefit of his experience so that they may see things more clearly, earlier.

After a while he stopped writing due to his failing health. It was always difficult to make out what he said before but even more so at the end of his life. His voice was so quiet that you had to lean in to hear him. He never complained. He was too worried about being of service to others and pleasing God. Most people my age think it's enough just to make getting through the gates your goal. Service to anyone doesn't factor into the journey. This was a lesson G embodied. Isn't it weird how people appear in your life at the precise moment when you need an adjustment to your perspective?

I'm not writing this for condolences; I know that G is in much better company than we here on earth could have ever offered him. We were fortunate to know him and learn from him. He lived a long, beautiful life and while I won't assume to know the inner-workings of Heaven, were I a betting gal, I'd say that G walked through those gates hearing "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

11 Comments

He sounds like an amazing man - what a beautiful way to remember him.

We should all aspire to be greeted in Heaven with those words.

I once did a series of profiles on World War II veterans, and it was one of the best experiences of my entire life. Those men, to me, are (or were, when they have passed on) magical, with a perspective that we all need in our lives. They'd lived through unimaginable horror, sometimes during their service, or sometimes the result of simply living too long to escape it -- they lost wives, children, friends. And yet they kept on going, finding joy in life all the while, when many of us would be brought to our knees. It amazes me.

For me, there is one left, and he is the most incredible of them all. I'm so sorry yours is gone, but yes, I am also happy for what heaven has gained.

Much love.

@jasondtaylor
thanks for this post Dana. helps frame what's important on a day when things are going so fast. needed the moment to ponder the importance of the more mature folks in our lives and the impact of their mentoring and wisdom.

No fair. You are suppose to leave the elegant eulogizing to us preacher types.

Simply my way of saying ... well spoken.

Beautifully written, Dana. :) He sounds like an amazing man & I am thankful for his service to our country & for his service in God's kingdom, too. May we all strive to be an example as he was. Thank you for sharing about your friend.

I wish I had the privilege of meeting this man. He sounds like a true comrade and a patriot, to me. I'm also happy and relieved to hear that Heaven had one more reason to rejoice last night. God Bless, Mr. G.

as sick as i am, i am reading this post and then going to bed. how blessed you were to have known him and if guys like him only knew what their actions meant to the free world. i am sure they did know that. May God bless him.

The veterans of WWII were such a great generation. The kids of today could learn so much from someone like Mr. G. Heaven is a great place for a man of his stature.

what an exquisite tribute to your dear friend. he would be honored and amazed at your words... and proud.

Dana,
This sounds like it was written about my grandfather. He was a WWII veteran and would often write short stories or poems that you would struggle to read because of his shaky hands. We started a tradition in my college years where I would treat him to breakfast on Veterans Day. We would talk over coffee and pancakes about the world today from the views of a twenty-something and his views(that of a seventy-something) and however different they were, they were the same at the core. I am sure that your veteran appreciated the thoughtfulness that you and yours would show him. On a lighter note, as a stay at home dad, I love your blog and look forward to it every day!

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