The Old Soldier decided to look out the window one last time.
Winter birds hushed their chatter when they saw the proud but
tired man’s face appear on the other side of the window pane.
Even Snow and Ice silenced all traffic in the streets for the Colonel’s final inspection.
The officer was unable to raise his broken arm in a salute, so he simply nodded his approval.
He pulled the shades and closed the curtains before he bent down to
remove his battle worn boots.
He took good care of them all his life and they served him well, much
like his soldiers, he thought.
After the boots were put aside, the uniform was carefully removed
and hung in the closet.
He put on the new robe given him by his unit for his journey home.
Memories flooded his mind as he glanced around the darkening room.
There were fading outlines of awards, plaques, and trophies he
earned for serving his country through the years.
Once again he turned his body in the direction of the door and
focused on his next goal.
He rested his bruised and swollen hand on the doorknob, not
knowing what awaited him on the other side.
To his surprise, the door opened easily.
The light in the room immediately blinded the soldier.
He knew he was in the presence of greatness and fell to his knees
when he heard the voice.
It was his King who called his name and said softly, “Come.”
The words the old timer heard next were what he always dreamed to
hear, but didn’t know if he ever would.
Sit next to me
And take your rest
All Heaven knows
done your best.
Enter in, thou good and faithful servant.
I wrote this after Papa Bill died. He was my second father, but I was as close to him as if he were my biological father. He showed our family what it meant to love unconditionally. And I will always be grateful he came into our lives. He was superstitious about one thing. He would never allow us to say good-bye to him. We had to say “See you later” instead.
It happened in January 2011 during a terrible snow storm that stopped all traffic and flights in and out of Atlanta for several days. My daughter Heather packed her bag and planned to stay with him at the nursing home when she heard the weather reports would prevent anyone from getting to him. She was trained in Hospice care and knew her grandfather wouldn’t live very long and didn’t want him to be alone. My mother was unable to travel at the time due to her illness and needed constant care herself. I chose to stay with Mom.
Miraculously, Papa’s son, my step-brother, was able to catch the last flight coming in from Colorado Springs that day. The roads were impassable and he couldn’t get a taxi to drive the last mile to see his dad, so he walked through the ice and blinding snow. Even though he didn’t appear to be conscious, Heather told her beloved Papa that his son was on his way and would be there soon.
Shortly after Papa Bill heard his son’s voice, he quietly passed away. He was 92 years old. He earned medals for his exceptional service during WWII and was very proud of being an Army officer most of his life. He had too many achievements for me to list here, but his greatest one was earning the love of everyone who knew him. He is sorely missed.
It’s difficult for me to explain. This is a poem I wrote, but it felt more like a vision of Papa Bill’s final moments that needed to be recorded. I merely happened to be the person with the pen and paper. Vaya con Dios, Papa. I know we will see you later.