In June I celebrated my 70th birthday. A life that encompasses more than 25,550 days. Yet for people of faith this is no more than a blink of the eye.
The older I get, the more reflective I have become about my approaching demise. But what sustains me and keeps the creature of fear at bay is the knowledge and belief that this life is simply a chapter in the book I travel. Merely a step on a pathway that leads to the Throne. I am wagering my entire existence that there is an eternal life beyond what is here.
The life we know is like sitting in chairs waiting for physical time to pass. At some point, stand, leaving this temporal place of pause, moving into a more splendid realm unknown before and never explored by mortals.
With each passing year my body becomes more worn, fatigued and pain-filled. But these maladies are nothing in comparison to the hurt experience in the loss of someone loved. I lost my friend Tommy Stiver recently. Tommy and I grew up together as high school buddies and remained friends for over fifty years.
We kept in touch, sharing a war and comforting each other through our divorces. Tommy retired to California and I stayed in Texas. Several times a year I visited Tommy in LA as I was there on business. And he would stop over in Dallas on his way to Ohio. We talked about old times. About the girls that got away and the friends who had passed away.
We remembered the town of Seymour, Texas and the teachers, classmates and town folks who had nurtured us. How much we loved our school and church and treasured the values bestowed on us. Just two young, innocent small town boys who went off to find our place in the world. We spoke of faith, life, love and events of the war we had witnessed.
We enjoyed our last visit this spring; he was journeying back to Ohio. He had decided to leave California and go back home, where his family lived, because his health was failing him.
Tommy told me about his kids and grandchildren, reminding me of how lucky I was to find a wife like JoAnn and how underserving I was. I agreed completely. But he assured me if I died before him, he would make himself available.
He gave me an Army Combat Engineer’s cap with my ribbons, and I gave him my pecan pie to eat on the trip home. Tommy died a few weeks ago. The pain is nearly unbearable. I remember a tall, skinny kid with pant legs way too short, standing straight with a big ole Texas grin.
Early yesterday morning I could hear Taps carried in the stilled air coming from the Dallas National Cemetery just down the road from the house. I thought of Tommy.
Tommy was buried in Arlington Cemetery. I will be buried down the road. Good Bye Colonel, I’ll see you at first light.
Durhl Caussey writes a column read coast to coast. He may be reached at this paper or firstname.lastname@example.org.