Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Funeral for a Friend

Summer's just started; swim season, too. We weren't supposed to be going to a funeral.

But there we were. The 13-year-old who holds several pool records in his age group, dressed up in khakis and a button-down shirt. His little brothers, too. I turned to Ella Numera Dos and asked, "Have we ever seen them in anything other than swimsuits?"

One of our former assistant coaches, who grew up on our community pool deck, was there, looking stunning & all grown up at the age of almost-25. She has a "real" job now. She commutes to work.

The team postponed swim practice yesterday to honor a friend. Our team's mentor, who loved the sport so much that he would hang around after meets to work on starts & flip-turns with all the little guys, including the 13-year-old sitting in front of us yesterday at the funeral, died of pancreatic cancer last week.

He was just 49 years old.

He served his country in the Navy. He encouraged his family to love swimming, the sport that embraced him so many years ago. He immersed himself in the community, most recently as "Commander" of our summer swim team.

His 3 kids, pictured above with Ella Numera Una in happier times, put on their brave faces to honor their Dad yesterday. His wife, probably the strongest person I know, delivered the eulogy.

Our tiny church sanctuary, which sits about 350 souls comfortably, was jammed. When the pews could hold no more, folks stood in the back. Mr. Fairway, head usher, set up folding chairs in the hallway outside, & when those were filled, sent the overflow to the chapel. Mr. F. said that 600+, easily, attended the service.

The 3 little swimmer boys in front of us in the church were a study in contrasts. The 8-year-old, whose chlorine-infused locks were having a difficult time lying down on top of his head, seemed to wonder why his Mom was so sad. The middle boy, who's 11, appeared to understand the gravitas of the occasion, but kept moving closer to his older brother, as if proximity would clarify things.

The big guy, the 13-year-old swimming phenom, will wipe his challengers all over the pool deck on Saturday. But yesterday was for tears. He wasn't afraid to wipe his eyes with his fists. After all, his buddy died last week.

14 comments:

Amy said...

Whew, crying before I've finished my coffee.

Condolences for your loss. Y'all are so lucky to have such a strong community. It really does seem to make the difference.

life as I know said...

He sounds like such a remarkable person, I'm sure the absence of his presence will surely be felt. I'll say a prayer for his family (and your community).

Thanks for dropping by from SITS.

carma said...

So sad to hear this :-(

LadyStyx said...

Oh, how sad!

Mrs4444 said...

That's awful. Poor kids...all of them.

Susie said...

I am sorry that your kids had to go through that. They are learning coping skills very early in life:-(

Vodka Mom said...

I am so very sorry. He sounds like he was a great, great guy.

MammaDawg said...

Why are my eyes stinging??

A beautiful tribute to such a wonderful friend...

Vicki said...

How sad

Veggie Mom said...

What a wonderful tribute...thanks so much for sharing.

Marrdy said...

Wow, that was a wonderful tribute. And now I've got tears running down my face. 48 is far too young to die. I am so sorry for his cute family and for you and your family who are such good friends. You are in my thoughts.

Lindy said...

Such a tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and with you.

Tracy P. said...

These are some of the most life-changing moments in a community such as this. While they are devastating, they are also unifying and inspiring. Ah, the roller coaster of emotion! And yes, such a beautiful tribute. Those kids of his will be blessed with some precious, ongoing support.

Queenie Jeannie said...

That's so sad! Cancer MUST be beaten!!!!!

Hugs to your friends, and you too.

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