Archive for January 29th, 2012

Reed Pilcher (6)

Major James Evelyn Pilcher
Born Adrian, Michigan
March 18, 1857
Died Savannah, Georgia
April 8, 1911
Surgeon U.S.A. 1883-1911

He endured patiently
He fought valiantly
He finished his course.

I think that most of us hope to go to our grave the way that Major Pilcher did. As his epitaph assures us, he completed his life’s work (finished his course). Assuming his epitaph is reflective of how he felt, this is not a man who died thinking “If only I had…” His epitaph asks us to take comfort in the fact that he died having done and achieved what he set out to. We should all be so lucky. I don’t know many people who can say that, but I did know one other. My paternal grandfather passed away just over five years ago this month. The last time I saw him was at Thanksgiving dinner. (I missed Christmas with him because there were storms I didn’t feel safe to drive through between where I was living and home.) Pap slept a lot and ate his meals on the living room tan sofa with a pineapple print, in front of a television that showed a selection of old westerns and detective shows. That last Thanksgiving, I had gone to sit next to him on the couch during a brief time he was awake. While we sat, a commercial for a cruise line came on tv. He surprised me by turning to me and saying “You know, Ash, I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in my life.” He listed off the things he had done, the places he had seen, and being a father and grandfather. Did he know in that moment that he had little time left? Maybe. He told me once that he never expected to live to see me graduate high school, let alone finish both college and graduate school. Maybe he just knew that it was something I needed to hear. It did give me a measure of comfort when, two months later, he passed away in his sleep. It was a conversation between just the two of us, and he gave me a precious gift when he said those words to me.

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