Do Not Weep
Cali held the simple, hand-made Order of Service for Walther Colt. No frills, no pretenses.
“Born May 5th, 1953. Took his last walk February 19th, 2008.”
It Will Be Lonely Here Without You
We will miss you more each day.
For life will not be the same for us
Since you’ve been called away.
We will always remember the way you looked
The way you walked and smiled.
All the things you did for us
Will be with us all the while.
You always did your best for us
Your heart was true and tender.
You lived your life for those you loved
And those you loved will remember.
Cali noticed a tear roll down Peggy’s cheek. Peggy was Walt’s wife. A few minutes earlier, Peggy and Cali had been standing beside Walt’s open coffin in the small family anteroom. Peggy’s three girls (from a former relationship) and several young grandchildren, mingled in the family room. No sobs… only soft voices… and ever so often, slight smiles along with tearful faces while recalling a special memory or moment in time.
Walt wore a deep blue suit. Cali recognized it as the one he had worn the day he married Peggy. She noticed how his full gray head of wavy hair and suit gave him a rather distinguished look. He had always been a handsome man. A teddy bear nestled beside him. Given to him by a grandchild, it was his constant “you are loved”, reminder as he journeyed through his final days.
The fourth button on his light blue shirt was open.
“That’s intentional,” a step-daughter said quietly when Cali mentioned it. “He always had that belly-button button open.”
Another step-daughter slipped up beside them and tenderly tucked a hot cup of Starbucks next to Walt’s arm. “Just the way he likes it,” she said.
Mother Peggy smiled and said, “He liked his coffee with 12 packages of sugar.”
“I know.” Cali returned the smile.
Then Peggy lovingly placed Walt’s favorite, well-worn straw hat beside him.
She began to share her heart. She talked about how traumatic it was for her twelve-year-old grandson, Jason, to lose his “granddad.”
“He and Walt were so close.” Her voice trembled. “Walt always took his grandparenting role so seriously and he loved being a granddad.”
“All he ever really wanted was family,” Cali added gently.
Peggy nodded. “Family and freedom. Those were everything to him. He loved to take the grandkids on hikes… he and Jason would spend hours together making these silly toy weapons, and then they’d go out to the bush on a play hunt… Jason is hurting so bad right now.”
Peggy stopped to wipe the tears. “Walt was the most loving, giving person. Yes, we had a difficult time living together, but we loved each other. You know Cali, I never saw that other side of Walt… the violence. Never. ”
Cali reached into her purse, pulled out an envelope and put it into Peggy’s hand. “From my mother and sister,” she said.
“Thanks. Walt often mentioned your family. Your mom always stayed connected with him and his mom – that meant a lot to him.”
For the next few minutes they sat quietly. Cali continued to watch as in simplicity and authenticity, Walt’s family embraced their grief and said their goodbyes. It was apparent that death and grieving were not new to this family.
The time had come to enter the chapel. “Goodbye my love, my rock,” Peggy whispered.
Cali choked back a tear and turned away.
The funeral director wheeled the coffin to the front of the chapel. Cali looked around her and counted twenty-seven people silently waiting for the service to begin. She wondered what their experience and connection with Walt had been. Why were they here, why were they sad?
Music to sooth a grieving soul played quietly in the background. Cali’s husband sat beside her. A little nervous, she took comfort in his presence. In a few minutes she would be asked to give a tribute, one she had spent the past few days preparing.
Cali’s thoughts wandered back to the man lying in the coffin. Over the span of forty years she had learned much from him; a man whose troubled and tumultuous life had taken her down an unexpected journey that had lasted his lifetime. She held the secrets to much of his life. When they were teens, long before anyone else in that room had even met Walt, Cali was the only friend in his shattered world.
At that moment she resolved she owed him the one thing he had asked her to do; to write his story.
That is how this story came to be.
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Caliâ€™s life was not all roses and happy fairy tale stories. She developed empathy for the