He and his wife travelled from Charlottesville, VA, in 1987, to meet me. There was a purpose for the trip - to prove that they weren't going to like me, and that their daughter and I should end our relationship (the dating part, probably). So after the Ascension Day service (a Thursday - this was in the LCMS), Katie pointed me to her Father and off I went. With a hand outstretched, I said, "Hi, Colonel, I'm Steve. It's nice to meet you. I hope you and Mrs. Tucker had a great trip down."
To that day, no one had ever addressed Earle Tucker as "Colonel". He is a retired Lt. Col., in the Air Force. So I gave him a promotion (so court marshall me... it worked).
They liked me. They really liked me. That day. There were times over the years when they might have thought otherwise, but at the same time, "like" was just added to "love", and it was mutual.
The Colonel is a man of strong faith and values, even at age 93. Now, he is in the ICU, unconscious, with mimimal brain activity (responding to the ventilator which keeps him breathing and keeps him alive).
Katie and I have arrived at our old home in TN to say goodbye to this giant of a man (he was over 6'). Last evening I went to his unit in the ICU. The shell was there, and it had changed drastically in the six months since we had last seen each other. In the past month, speaking with him on the phone, his voice had begun the change that happens with the very elderly. The gravely-ness became more pronounced and the pronunciation less so. But the man was always there.
Now, I think he's wrestling with his angel - "No, let's stay here a little while longer. My kids are coming. And that son-in-law who plays the organ, he's coming too. Let's wait. This is eternity. I don't think the Lord will mind. Do you?" Saith the Angel, "Who has known the mind of God?" Says the Colonel, "His Word shows us His mind, His Way, His Truth, His Life". He's coming for me, and I'm coming to Him. But we can hold off just a few moments more. It might seem like a long time here, but in the whole of eternity, it's nothing."
Angel, "Oh, all right. But just for a moment."
So for a few moments in a special, purgatorial time, we are able to say those things we want to say. I only hope it's enough.
Auf Wiedersehen, Colonel.
Oh - evidently now, almost everyone calls him "The Colonel." How can you dislike someone who gives you a promotion and everyone acknowledges it?
Thank you, Lord. When the time comes for the wrestling with the angel to end, stretch out thine hand, and grasp firmly the hand of a man who has tried to serve you well.