Monday afternoon. I attended a funeral this morning for a gentleman that I had the pleasure of working with for several years. Pete was an incredible guy, always smiling, always positive, and I loved talking to him because he always had something to say that would make me smile, or even laugh out loud. He retired a few years ago and I hadn't heard much from him recently, but I knew that he was doing something that he loved (because he always did things that he loved) and that he was bringing his trademark dazzling smile with him, wherever he went.
A little over a week ago, I was meeting with one of my team members and she happened to mention that she was concerned about Pete because she hadn't heard from him in over a month. I suggested that she send him an email, asking how he was doing, to see what was going on. When I came in the next morning, she told me that she'd found out Pete had died the very day we were talking about him. I felt a chill come over me, as though the sun had gone behind a cloud. Such a good man, with a wonderful life, and gone so young. He was only 67, just two years older than my mother.
His funeral was everything you could ever want from a final remembrance of your life, if such a thing can ever be positive. I never knew that Pete had served two tours in Vietnam, that he'd been a career Marine until his retirement in 1983, and that he'd commanded lots of men during this period, many of whom had gone on to become officers themselves. Those that spoke of him, and there were three plus the officiant, spoke of a man beloved by everyone that met him, a man who was a gentle man and a gentleman, a humble man with many accomplishments, a good husband, father, grandfather, friend, and co-worker. His son gave one of the most touching eulogies I've ever heard, breaking down several times before finishing. He spoke of his father's formative years, working on his family's farm in rural Pennsylvania, learning the value of hard work and honesty, values he carried with him throughout his life. He spoke of his determination to fight the cancer that eventually took his life, because he so wanted more time with his family. The priest, who met Pete only six weeks before his death, spoke of his (the priest's) absolute certainty that Pete was in heaven because he embodied all of the best qualities of a Christian man while retaining a stubborn humility that refused to acknowledge how truly remarkable he was in that respect.
Pete, I know that you're in heaven now, as surely as I'm sitting here. As sad as I am right now, and as much as cried at your funeral, you live on inside me and through every person that was ever blessed enough to know you. Say hi to Bev (our mail lady for years, she died in 1997) and Ben (another QA, he died last year) and Arnie (Director of Development, he died a few years ago); you guys can have a little VLSCI reunion up there while those of us left behind remember your smile.