A valued friend died a few days ago. Miss D. and I are still absorbing his loss, remembering his warmth and laughter and fellowship, saddened at the thought that we won't share them again - at least, not in this life.
Nevertheless, I refuse to get downcast or despondent at losing Bob. He was a man among men, who lived his life on his terms, and spat in the eye of anyone who tried to force him to do otherwise. He was a good man all around. I'm not going to be sad that he's died, as we all must, sooner or later. Instead, I'm going to be glad that he lived, and that I was privileged to call him and his family my friends for over a decade.
Bob was a farmer in a state where farming was always a precarious existence. There, you wrestle your living from the soil the hard way. No highly fertile soil, no abundant water, no balmy weather . . . just hard work and worry, day in and day out, never knowing whether each year would be boom or bust.
Bob also worked as a sheriff's deputy back in the day, to help his community and to help make ends meet. According to those who knew him back then, he was one of the "good cops": hell on wheels to ne'er-do-wells, but compassionate and helpful to those who needed it, and with the wisdom to judge when each attitude was appropriate. He was what the old-timers call a "peace officer" instead of a "law enforcement officer". Would that we still had more of them around! His daughter continues in the family tradition, working for the same sheriff's office.
Bob enjoyed firearms and shooting, and every year he and his family hosted our Blogorado gathering where we celebrated both. I enjoyed those times, yarning about everything under the sun, sharing good food and drink in vast quantities, sitting around the fire in the chilly evenings and sharing the fellowship. There were also phone conversations now and then, sharing ideas, arranging meetups, and generally catching up on each other's news. I spoke with him two or three times in the last few weeks of his life, making various arrangements, and now I'm glad I did.
Like me, Bob lived through a heart attack, but his was much worse than mine. He only just survived it, and it left his health in a precarious state. He knew his days were numbered, but simply shrugged his shoulders and got on with life. We understood each other in that way. When you're a cardiac survivor, you take life one day at a time, because you don't know when your heart will decide it's time for another round with the Grim Reaper. We talked about that sometimes, and were mutually grateful for each extra day we've been given.
Bob's funeral will be held next week. Miss D. and I will be attending, not to mourn his death, but to celebrate his life. We're richer for having known him, and we'll always cherish his memory. If the Good Book speaks truly, I hope we'll see him one day - in the right place, too! Bob wasn't a believer, but I am, and I've said my prayers for his soul. God grant that they helped him over the threshold of the Pearly Gates.