Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On the Death of a Loved One...and Lonesome Dove

We are in the process of burying the bride's father.  He was in failing health, yet there was no inkling that he would suddenly collapse and die (although he likely would have said, "That's a good way to go.").

So, shock, sadness, regrets, laughter, tears...all the emotions that wash over you when a loved one dies.  The funny stories and the tearful ones, all part of a life well lived.

You readers--the handful that will stick through reading this homily, which is, after all, about a complete stranger--of course didn't know my father-in-law (FIL), since I keep my family stuff fairly anonymous and generic here at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 6 year old human being).  

But there are many things we could say about FIL.  He was 87, a WWII veteran, a farmer and mechanic, but mostly I think FIL would like to be remembered as a family man: husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, friend, and role model/mentor to many young people in his family and community.  

In his robust years, FIL was kinda the go-to guy for broken stuff and when you simply needed a hand or some advice.  Or just wanted to bullshit with someone.  In his later years, the favors were returned when his abilities to cope with his home and property became too much, and many family members and friends would cheerfully pitch in to help FIL with his tasks. get back to the blog, one of my all-time favorite novels and film productions is Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove.  This story has it all: love, friendship, family, loyalty, bravery.  I am convinced that EVERY lesson you need to learn about life, you can find in Lonesome Dove.

I can't get into all the character background here, so please read on, but for you aficionados, today I especially recall the part of the story where the scout Deets was killed.  Whenever anyone dies, the ones left behind always have some kind of self-recriminations:

Woodrow Call: I guess it's our fault, we should've shot sooner.
Gus McCrae: I don't want to start thinking, Woodrow, of all the things we should have done for this good man.

And the epitaph on Deets' headboard, carved by Woodrow Call...which with some changed words could have been FIL's:
Pea Eye Parker: What's it read, Gus? 
Gus McCrae: It says, "Josh Deets. Served with me 30 years. Fought In 21 engagements with the Comanche and the Kiowa. Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior." That's what it says. 
Pea Eye Parker: My lord. Old Deets is gone. My lord. 

And finally, Gus McCrae's philosophy of life, which could have been FIL's:
Gus McCrae: Lorie darlin', life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it's likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself.

Rest in peace, Charlie.  I loved you.

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