And then there's life
My father in law (the step-dad one, not the bio one) had cancer a few years ago. Just a mass of tumor growing in the middle of his body. A team of surgeons opened him up and removed it; along with his gallbladder, a bit of liver and a small part of his pancreas. Just to be safe, you know? Because of his excellent health, he recovered fairly quickly and was back to playing tennis in less than 6 months. He was in his 80's. With degenerative disk disease. Playing tennis.
The cancer came back. They took it out again. Chemotherapy killed his taste buds and he never really got that back.
He fell and broke his collarbone. During an MRI to see how porous his bones might be, they noticed two things. 1. he has little balls of cancer growing all over inside. And 2. his kidneys were about the size of peanuts. Probably from years and years and YEARS of painkillers for the degenerative disk disease.
So they started him on kidney dialysis and discussed the tiny tumors. They weren't growing very fast, and with his remarkable health, he was more likely to die from kidney failure or old age, than from cancer which could take 10 years to grow enough to really affect him.
Except those tiny tumors found a weak spot in his back and replaced two of his vertebrae and were working on two more. The tumors put pressure on his spinal column, causing spinal fluid to build up in his brain. He had terrible headaches and short term memory loss.
There's more to the story, but to make it short, the cancer won.
My step father in law was buried on Tuesday with military honors that he more than deserved, but never really wanted. He was just serving the country he loved, and the people of this country as best he could. Never was there such a humble man who wielded so much power as well as he did.
He was a Judge, you see. And he took his job seriously. He never let his personal opinion affect his judicial opinion and he always heard both sides equally.
Once, after sentencing a man to prison, he ordered the guy go to the hospital before incarceration. He thought the guy's cough needed a doctor's attention.
7 years later, that man came to my father in law's courtroom and thanked him. The man had TB. Sending him to the hospital before prison may have saved not only his life, but the lives of anyone exposed to him.
He performed our wedding ceremony, and stood there in his honorable judge robes in the middle of July, on a day when the high temperature was a whopping 64 degrees. And he paused in the middle of the ceremony and commented, "You know... (name omitted) said it'd be a cold day in July before he got married." Then carried on through our laughter, solemnly binding us together.
He left an impression on everyone he met. Usually a favorable impression. His oncologist called to check on him almost every day. He kidney doc sent a note saying that the way my father in law embraced life and in the end embraced his own death, had changed his way of seeing patients.
These are just a few examples of ways my FIL touched people.
And my father in law was not in that flag draped coffin. As his pastor put it, "You can't bury his spirit, his sense of humor, his sense of fairness or fashion. (he was well known for his snazzy clothing) You can't bury who he was, or who he is in our minds and hearts. You can only bury the vessel that carried all those things."
There were a lot of smiles and very few tears at his burial. I'd like my funeral to be full of smiles too.
Having a gun salute would be nice too. That was a first for me.