Having a friend die is certainly nothing new. This most assuredly won’t be the last time. All losses are unique and some hit us with more force than do others. It is in that place I find myself today.

We buried a dear friend last week. My friends in the veteran community did not know him, but most of you have experienced this depth of loss. This man had a profound influence upon my civilian career. He also shared the joy of my becoming pretty good at it. His presence in my life will be missed.

Among other things, I enjoyed seeing former coworkers some of whom I had not seen in nearly 25 years. It was an interesting sort of reunion. And a rather happy funeral. Everyone had stories about this character and his general orneriness. Sharing those memories was at least cathartic; sharing the memories with people who also cared about this man makes the transition to our lives without him much more bearable.

Another unique part of this burial was the presence of both a fire service last alarm bell and a mounted sheriff’s posse. We’ve all seen at least part of a formal burial service which included special equipment, especially those who have been to Arlington for a military burial. This was not quite like anything I’d ever seen firsthand. It also seemed entirely appropriate to this individual who loved his horses and loved his guns – a line that was even included in his obituary.

It rained that day. The bagpiper stumbled a couple of times. The PA system went wonky during the funeral. And at one point during the procession a pickup dragging a trailer ran me off the roadway. In the rain. Every bit of this was entirely appropriate for my old friend’s final tribute. Somehow, so did the 13 hours or so of flight delays getting there and getting back home.

His wife let me talk with him on the phone while he was still in the ICU. It didn’t matter much whether he could hear me or not. I got to say good-bye to my old partner. And, as I promised him I would do, I will continue to communicate with his lovely wife and make certain that she has whatever she needs to carry on with the good grace she has always had.

Rest well, my friend.

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