We have friends that we have known for over thirty years. We met when our families ended up in Woodbridge, Virginia. Actually, Jerry worked at the pentagon and I worked in the National Office of the IRS (no snickers please). At that time our son was not born, our daughter was about 16 months old and Jerry and Kathy had a son that was 4 and a daughter that was about 4 months old. We grew close. It was fun to meet for Church. Jerry and I would usher and Kathy and "Wilma" would Altar Guild. We all, at one time or another served on the vestry. We grew a church from 30 families to what is now about 800.
Our family vacations were taken together. Jerry and I would have umbrella stroller races (daughters included) in the swamps of Virginia and on the beach at Fort Story. Jerry was a car enthusiast. Well, that puts it mildly. over the course of our 30 years he built a Porsche 356C, about 10 bugs including a bus and a square back, a 55 Buick, a 58 Lincoln, a 41 Ford Sedan and a host of other project cars. Jerry would say to me, "Fred, the only reason to cut wood is to bend steel." He helped both me and my daughter build a 64 Bug from the ground up and he helped my san (matt is his Godson) and me build a 63 Ford truck. Jerry's hands grew gnarly over the course of time with all the pounding and whatnot on cars. Jerry could fix almost anything, and if he could not fix it he could fabricate a part that would fix whatever was broken. The gifts God gave him were astounding!
But the biggest gifts God gave him were his family. He loved his Kathy, his daughter Carrie, his son Nathan and his two beautiful grandchildren Stella and Brodie. He taught them everything hew knew -- about cars, about trivia, about rock and roll music and about God.
We both travelled from coast to coast on a few occasions and yet our friendship stayed strong. Jerry was a desert rat. Strange for a guy who was raised in Newport, Rhode Island and worked as a lifeguard growing up but first he lived in Barstow, CA and then later, after a second stint in DC, moved to Cal City. As a military person he also put in time at Fort Hood and Fort Juachaca. All that being said he and his family settled in California City, CA. In these later years it has been a little difficult for us to get together but still, 380 miles is not all that great and we did visit for special occasions and for family things. And with close friends, I would call and we would talk cars and rock and roll for hours, as if we had not been separated by time and distance.
Recently, about 3 and one-half years ago, Jerry, contracted esophageal cancer. Seems that stupid hietal hernia caught up with him in a big way. But he was a strong guy in really good health and he beat it. Sure, they took out his esophagus and had to steal some of his stomach to create a new one but he beat it! It took months but he learned to eat all over again and was well on the road to full recovery. Sure he had to retire in order to fight this thing but he took it in stride. Actually, he said, "I ain't going quietly. I got my feet and my hands jammed against the door and if I go it will be because somebody bigger and stronger pulled me through that door."
Next came the lung cancer. A spot appeared and try as the doctors might, they just could not quite get rid of it. It would shrink and then the chemo would stop working, or the medication given to Jerry to build the white count would fail and the docs would have to try something else. I spoke with Jerry only about 2 weeks ago or so and he was still fighting and seemed to be holding his own. His biggest problem was the fluid that built up in his lungs, after a while he could not work on the cars for a very long time because he could not breath. On numerous occasions the docs took a quart or so of fluid out of first one lung and then another. He would go right back to work banging on one fender or another.
Now, Jerry has a 41 Ford Coupe (his bumper sticker would say "I would rather eat worms than drive a Chevy") that he has collected parts for for some time. engine, rear end, axles, disc brakes, seats, electrical stuff -- all of that. He never actually worked on that one car and, naive as I am, I grew to believe that nothing really serious would happen until after that car was complete. Somehow, God and Jerry had struck a deal that Jerry would get to finish the Coupe before he was called home.
Yesterday, in the midst of a spectacle bigger than life, regular life intruded. I received a call from Jerry's daughter, Jerry died. From an inoperable brain tumor. After all of that cancer stuff, he ends up with a tumor. Ironic? And so it goes.
"Pause a while and know that I am God,
exalted among the nations, exalted over the earth!"