It was sort of unexpected. The usual surprise when the phone call came. The funeral was up north where he lived. The smiling in-law and survivor of war and crime was being ‘put to rest’ next week and “could you come?”
His pain is gone, but the ‘rest’ part seems a bit ambiguous to Gator. As though death was a train station you just sacked out in, waiting for the eternity express to rumble in. Sort of like the one in the movie ‘Matrix’ for those of you that have wondered about that place. What’s on the ticket you have in your hand? They always say ‘Judgment seat, last stop’. The ticket also says ‘payment pending’ Better get on the train and get a good seat. Might be a slight delay at the Judgment station. The conductor says there is a bit of a crowd there. He also says ‘today’ with a slight smile. If you know what is coming, it gives you a bit of a sharp uncertainty, everyone does it the conductor says. Open mouth and realization that the truth was told to you. “Did I make the cut?”
So with this imagery in mind, Gator softly walked into the church building and took a pew seat towards the front. The front rows had the soldier’s sons and the family, and us of course. It was a different ceremony, a different faith stream but with the same feeling. Gator did not know the drill, so he just read and reread a passage in his NKJ Bible. Matthew 22: 32..”God is not the God of the dead but the God of the living” This was a passage of those that will live forever. I had no doubt that this rough and tumble Marine was going to be with his Savior. We had talked with him earlier in the year. There was certainty about him being saved from condemnation by his faith in Jesus.
At the end of communion, the Priest requested the eulogy to be given. The sons looked at each other and then turned and looked at us. I took my Bible and ascended to the pulpit. I read, almost from memory the few lines of scripture I had read over and over. I finished the short reading and then began to honor the fallen Korean war vet.
I could see the VFW guys in full dress and the colonel and the bagpiper nearby. Solemn but focused. On me.And the casket
I thought about the time when we asked him to turn down the TV for our young sons sitting with us. He replied in no uncertain terms that we were in his house and would do what he pleased. A little rough language tossed in for emphasis. Then afterwards we all went the Post and played pool. Young Gator made a pretty good bank shot and Dad-in-law offered a fireball shot of whiskey to him. Young Gator was about 15.
Those images were set aside as Gator eulogized about the fallen Marine as a man of bravery and honor. A Chosin reservoir survivor in the Korean war, followed by decades of police business in Milwaukee. It felt right to bring those things to light. His buddies at the VFW knew him well. His license plate read: ‘Ill buy one’ His other car read: ‘Stop 4 one’ Cops knew him and they also know about survivors and trauma. They made sure he got home from the post.
We followed the casket behind the Piper and experienced the seven men shoot blanks three times. I thanked the Colonel and then went in for the lunch. The Priest was walking next to me and I said: “Father, thank you for speaking of our savior” He turned to me and said: “Yes! It’s all about Jesus!” Gator will never forget that.
There was a proposal by his sons to give the VFW a budget of a thousand dollars for that days bar tab. We said OK. Soon afterwards it came time to go back up north and figure out what to do with the estate. Mrs. Gator’s brother handled the record keeping and we all spoke up for what we wanted. The sons wanted the vehicles and Gator wanted the man’s sidearm, an Ithaca 1911 .45. The Grip handles were well worn and there was some cleaning to do. It appeared to have been used somewhat.
Other things were attended to and it was pretty equitable between the six of us.
The house was cleaned and Gator got some Pendleton shirts and some slippers. The freezers were emptied and there was quite a bit of steaks and roasts to be salvaged. Gator also spoke up for the powerful garden tractor that was top of the line. Stuff like that, most of us know what it is like. Left behind has a different meaning.
We have all been through this and Gator thinks what it will be like when his unneeded precious instruments and other stuff is given to the family and friends. None of it will pay that ticket we all get when we get on that train for the Judgment station. We will tremble and yet look forward to our friend that has spoken to us many times in different ways. There are some tickets that cannot be paid and then there are the rest that will say ‘paid in full’ The next stop is eternal joy but the unpaid tickets will have to go on for the Perdition station. ‘End of the line!’ Lets talk about that ticket payment sometime, it’s pretty good. Jack Gator