Listen, Laugh, & Love

by John on February 19, 2012

The Army honor guards silently strode down the main aisle of the church, saluted, and unfurled the American flag. From the rear of the church, the bugler started to play taps and I stood up a little straighter and tried to avoid shifting nervously.

This is how I started my Saturday afternoon, the calm and cool of a church, where I had come to pay my respects to my friend’s grandfather.

As I was making my way up to the service, I thought back to the relatively carefree days of my youth. To a time bordering on the beginning fringe of becoming a teenager and how this man had played a major role in shaping the professional, husband, and father I am today.

See, he didn’t have to help me, he could have said no but he said yes. He didn’t have to help the countless others who came asking, but we all knew he did. His ability to show love and kindness is a standard that I may never get close to achieving in my lifetime.

The honor guards have now folded the flag with military precision and have placed it in the hands of the family. They solemnly salute, pivot, and exit silently from the church. Mass is said and the crowd of people make their way to the parish hall.

It’s been close to twenty years since I’ve seen some of these people. I feel like it’s been an entire lifetime. I’ve been transported to the awkwardness of my youth, tongue tied, nervous, and not knowing how to break the ice with people I’ve known forever. It’s as if I’m fifteen again.

The smiles and hugs make the years and the awkwardness slip away. We chat about our current lives and our kids. We laugh. We take a moment to watch a slide show and chuckle at the funny pictures, and we’re reminded of just how kind and loving he was.

I remember mustering up the courage to thank him for the favor he had done for me. I can’t remember if he said you’re welcome, I just remember giving him a huge hug that seemed to help take the weight of my worries off my shoulders.

Years later, I recalled the real lessons he taught us all, not by any lecture or written paper, but by his actions. Be kind to one another, listen, laugh, love unconditionally, and if you can help someone, do so unconditionally.

I say goodbye and quietly walk back to my car. Smiling only to myself I think of some of the funny photos that were shared this afternoon. I quietly pass by the church and whisper “Thank you Ed, thank you” and I realize that he’s smiling saying to me and everyone else “You’re Welcome”.

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