Friday, December 7, 2012

Life Expectancy - Or Something Like It

Today I attended a Veteran's Memorial Service at the Veterans Memorial Cemetary of Western Colorado.  The service was for a Vietnam Vet, Ron "Doc" Ross, who passed away last week.  Doc Ross was very active in my little community and well-respected so his turn-out was huge.  It started with the traditional Honor Guard and Bagpiper escorting his remains to the internment site and included all the typical Veteran services.  At least, I think it included what is deemed "typical".  I'm really not sure.  This is the first Military service I've been to so I really had no idea what to expect.  And I certainly couldn't see anything - there were tons of people and the internment shelter was designed to hold, at the most, 20 or so folk. 

Doc's Patriot Guard Riders were there, along with those whom he served with, those he worked with, those he called friends, those he touched in some way (whether small or large) and fellow Vets who may have only known of him, never really meeting him.  It was a lovely day and seeing the Flags whipping briskly in the wind, the Color Guard's prestine uniforms, the bagpiper's kilts and the old Army truck really added to the somber tone of the Memorial.  And of course, when Doc's remains passed by, I cried.  Not because I knew the man well but because I saw how his loss was affecting his closest friends and because, well, because I just cry (I didn't used to be such a wuss, honest).  It sent me down memory lane and I found myself thinking of the first time I met him, how he intimidated me and how it took me almost 2 years to get a smile out of him.  Once I got that smile, tho, the scary Doc Ross was replaced with a warm and gruff ole' Marine who gave me a hug every time he saw me.  Doc was an incredible advocate for all Veterans - young and old - and his presence will be missed.  I know his legacy will continue on through his friends and his organizations but the man has left a hole that I don't think anyone will even try to fill.

While I was standing (oh-so-uncomfortably in my "church" clothes) and observing, my mind began to wander to my own end.  I looked at the people there, some dressed like me in their fancy duds but most dressed in jeans, and began to have a conversation with myself about whether or not this was the type of tribute Doc would've enjoyed for himself or if he would shrug it off as a bunch of mularkey and wonder why no one was out playing on such a beautiful afternoon.  Which then led me to think about how I would want to be memorialized at the end (possibly "the end" coming after crossing the finish line of one of my races - I always say there are those races that are gonna kill me).  I know that Memorials and Funerals are for the living - those left behind to carry on - so I don't feel right in dictating how it should be done.  If I had my peace, I'd just as soon be cremated and then discharged out of a starting line's gun but  doubt my daughter would feel quite so glib about the whole process (not to mention it might just freak people out...).  You always hear at funerals or memorials, "this is how so and so would want it" but you don't really know, do you?  So, as a guide to my end (and an ad-hoc addendum to my will), I offer these suggestions:
  1. For pete's sake - do not dress up.  Don't get me wrong, please wear clothes, but don't be uncomfortable.  God knows I would just as soon be in a pair of jeans and my Birks so why should you be any different?
  2. If you must have a "service", do it to a theme.  Like everyone dressing up as their superhero or something like that.  And please, leave the prayers to the individual, don't bring them in to my party.
  3. THERE WILL BE NO GUM CHEWING ALLOWED!  Nothing worse than lips smacking together in the pursuit of digesting that undigestable piece of flavored rubber.
  4. Somebody better take on the task of completing a half marathon in each state for me.  Blow up a picture of me, tape it to a popsicle stick and complete my mission in my name.  I'll even let the brave soul keep the bling.  I just want my bloomin' map colored in.
  5. Bagpipes.  I want bagpipes.  And a cute dude in nothing but a kilt playing said bagpipes.  I don't even care if he can play the bagpipes.  You might.  So I'd get to work on that.
There.  Those are my suggestions.  Take them or leave them, I really won't know, will I?  Just keep it stuffy and gum free and you'll be golden.

All of this was composed while attending Doc's beautiful memorial.  I don't think Doc would mind.  In fact, I think he would've helped me with my list.

Semper Fi, Doc.  You'll be missed.

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