Goodbye Johnny…

11 12 2009

My father-in-law, who I mentioned was hospitalized last week, did not make it out of the hospital. He passed on Monday, December 7 — Pearl Harbor Day. This was fitting in its way as he was a career military man. He served in the National Guard, U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force. He retired as a decorated Master Sergeant from the Air Force.

His whole life was a miracle. At birth, his mother was told that he would not make it. She refused to listen to the doctors and fattened him up with PET Milk. He fought and lived. He could not walk, some doctors said he would never walk, and had to have his bones adjusted to simply take steps on his own. He fought and walked.

He had multiple birth defects that were undetected. His entire system of internal organs, including his heart were on the wrong side. He only had one functioning kidney. All the same, he served our nation on multiple assignments around the world. He served during Vietnam and The Cold War. He met my mother-in-law, in Belgium. He brought her back here and they had two daughters together. One of whom I was priviledged enough to marry.

He was a cancer survivor. Seventeen years ago, he had colon cancer. It had grown to the size of a large grapefruit undetected. He never was one to complain. He went through surgery, the tumor was removed, and miraculously it was completely isolated. There was no need for chemotherapy or radiation.

His only functioning kidney failed roughly twelve years ago, ever since he was on dialysis, three times a week. He fought and survived long enough to see the birth of our two boys. He was an excellent grandfather. He saw my oldest just about every day of his life until these past few months when heart problems made him simply too weak.

Last week, we learned that he had three blockages in his heart. The doctor said the only possible option was surgery. We deliberated on the pros and cons. In the end, I guess, he made the decision for us. Shortly after talking to the doctor one last time about the surgery, he passed out and could not be revived though the doctors (one of whom was a long-time associate who worked with my wife, a nurse, for several years) did everything possible.

We are going to miss him dearly.

But we have much to comfort us. His faith was strong. My wife, her sister, and mother all have their faith to lean on and comfort them and to find hope in at this time. Friends, family, and even a pastor from a former church we have attended very sporadically in recent years have been quick to offer support and — more importantly and more precious — their love. We have each other, and my mother-in-law has us and her other daughter and her husband to live with until she decides what to do. As I promised to Johnny, she is more than welcome to move in with us permanently if she would like now that he is gone.

The Air Force provided him a wonderful ceremony at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo, Alabama, complete with a twenty-one gun salute. He would have been very proud, I think. I wore his suit — the one he gave me when I was first married, when I had no money, and needed to go on a job interview. I think he would have liked that. Our visitation with him prior to the burial was nice. Seeing him wearing the same uniform from when he was younger, seeing how it still fit and gleamed was touching. The staff at the funeral home were compassionate and allowed the widow to have as much time with him as possible prior to burial.

Now his journey is done. His mission is complete.

I just wish we could have visited with him a little longer, a little more often.

I wish I could have gone fishing with him one more time.

We’ll miss you very much, Johnny. Thanks for everything.

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