I had to go to a funeral today. Well, actually it was a memorial service, but in my book it's the same thing, just no casket.
These services are never easy, but this one today was especially tough. It was for a young pilot with whom I work. Or I should say used to work with -- before he was diagnosed with cancer -- and most of the people that I knew at the service were there dressed in uniform. We honored him by wearing the uniform of a job that he was so very proud to have.
Captain John was diagnosed with cancer just after he upgraded to the left seat. For much of his career after that he was off on sick leave, returning to flight duty only once during a one-year remission. A remission that was all too short.
Captain John knew he was dying, and it was both a blessing and a curse to him. Sure, he was in pain, and suffered the indignities of treatments that didn't work. However, he still lived life to its fullest. Every single day. Something that I know more of us wish we could say.
He had time to prepare for death, and went about saying his good byes to family, friends and co-workers. He was a meticulous pilot, and his attention to detail came through at his services today. He planned every bit of today's event, from the choice of scriptures to be read, the people who spoke, the music, and the playing of a goodbye video shot at a time when his health was stronger.
Rather than being sad or maudlin, it brought laughter to everyone: it was Captain John, doing the pre-flight and running down the checklist for his final flight. Rest in peace, my friend.