I'm taking the day off of work today (Tuesday) to recover. I am emotionally and physically tapped out from what's now been a 10 day ordeal. You may have noticed I've been gone for a while.
At about 1:15 AM Saturday November 26th as estimated by the justice of the peace, Weldon Gray Jr. (I'm the III) let slip the surly bonds of earth to join his father, departed son, nephews, and numerous cousins, aunts, and uncles.
The cause of death was a classic case of a sudden massive heart attack. The symptoms were classic. He had fallen out of the chair he was sitting in and died before he hit the ground. The lack of bruises on his face was the tell tale sign. The police department was the first to respond in about 2 minutes and about 10 minutes after 911 emergency services were called the paramedics arrived. After a cursory examination, he was pronounced dead.
Weldon Gray was born on March 11, 1956 in Missouri and departed this life on November 26, 2005. He was 49 years old.
He was a lot of things to a lot of people. From the 6th grade on he knew what he wanted to do in life: he wanted to be an electrical engineer who would bring electricity to people who wouldn't otherwise have it. Dad took power very seriously. He believed it was the cornerstone of an industrial society, and also that power was vital for long term social well being. He was unusual as an electrical engineer in that he spent his entire career in rural electrification, bringing electricity to isolated and sometimes desolate places big power companies often never wanted to even touch.
Rural power is not just a job, it's a lifestyle you grow up in. I can seriously compare it to being the son of a military man in a lot of ways. We moved an awful lot, and we wound up in a lot of unlikely and sometimes unseemly places. Dad would get called at the damndest times and at all hours to head into deadly and dangerous situations in the middle of nowhere.
The other thing is, rural power is still a family industry. I remember being up late nights as a kid at the coop helping box up emergency food and supplies going out with the crews who were delivering them to people who were caught in storms and floods. I even remember being up there at the office serving coffee and donuts to the volunteers who manned the Y2K vigil. They all knew nothing was going to happen, but they know any coincidental outage might cause untold panic and chaos and they were ready to pounce on it.
I spent an awful lot of time around the coop's offices and warehouses. I know his coworker's names and they know mine. I won't get to see these people as often as I used to now and I'll miss that.
But more than an engineer he was a dad, and that's how I will remember him always. In an age where over half my peers have parents who are separated, divorced, or just plain dysfunctional, I had an old fashioned dad who acted like a man instead of a mouse. Everything I did, there he was, from my miserable stint in Little League to my not so miserable stint in soccer to my National Honor society functions there he was. He was a deacon and a Sunday school teacher and always volunteered to house the youth group. I've been to the emergency room several times in my life and it was never long before he was there. He was also a 32nd degree Mason, which he was rather proud of.
There's just so much I could say I don't know what to say.
He's survived by his wife, mother, oldest son and namesake (me), only daughter, and youngest son. He is sorely missed.
Dad had a lifetime of poor health. He had a very dangerous operation this past summer, and as a result of it he had lost well over 100 pounds of weight. It effectively curbed his diabetes and he had just come off of his night time breathing machine and was almost off of his blood pressure medicine. We really weren't expecting this. He was in the best shape he'd been in in years. His physician contacted us and expressed his shock as well.
It's a bittersweet fate. He had just bought his Cowboy Cadillac, a 4 door 4WD crew cab Silverado 1500 in GM Dark Red, his favorite color. Side rails, brushguard, toolbox, and all the options. That truck had been his dream for years and he finally bought it about 2 months before he died.
He had a lot of plans for the future. He was going to indulge his hobbies, starting with the home he was going to build out in the sticks on his own little piece of land. He always told me that when he finally retired he wanted to get the heck away from everyone.
He wanted to rebuild a classic 1950s vintage Chevrolet truck with my brother. My younger brother Landon is going to school to become a mechanic, and my dad just liked cars and Chevys a whole lot. They were going to put a sweet engine in it and trick it out.
Landon had been looking forward to this and was using his connections to find all the parts they would need.
Next year, since he was finally feeling better, he was going to get back into his firearms. He hadn't fired one in about a year and a half because he'd been so ill. He wanted me to help him get back into shape to pass his test to get his concealed carry permit.
I had been looking forward to this and had ordered him some accessories for his pistol of choice, a Ruger P85 he's had forever and ever. It was going to be his Christmas present this year.
After a funeral service in Texas he was according to his wishes transported to his native Missouri where there was a visitation and a second service at graveside. He was buried in his favorite suit wearing his favorite shirt along with Quakers the Duck, Drake the Mallard, and the new Leatherman Wave we'd bought him for Christmas.
His original old style Leatherman Wave I have right here and it is worn plumb out. Everything is dull and loose from extensive use. He had gotten it when it was a brand new product and it went with him everywhere except on planes. It was only fit he should be buried with one.
The rest of my material inheritance includes the aformentioned P85 pistol and the home defense gun, a Mossberg 500 Enforcer I believe with the 20 inch barrel. I chose them because they were the guns that I felt were uniquely his. They were the guns he reached for when something went bump in the night or a drifter in Arkansas threatened his family at 3 AM. When I was a kid I wasn't scared at night because Dad had the Ruger and the Mossberg ready to go.
These are rugged and serviceable weapons that served a man who demanded a lot of out of his personal tools for a lifetime. If the balloon ever went up, these are the guns that he would have taken with him. I always knew someday they'd be mine but that day has come far too early. I'd gladly give them back if it meant I could undo what has happened.
My brother, we both agreed, should take the rest of the long guns save for one that I thought our sister should have, an old Marlin .22 that was his second gun, the first one being lost to a ditch I believe. My brother is stuck living somewhere until next December at least, and just last week two people were murdered not 100 feet from his doorstep. I feel a lot better knowing that he has something to protect himself with now.
I let my mom try all of his handguns. She found the Ruger impossible to manipulate due to her athritis and selected the Interarms Rossi in .357 Magnum, which is just as well because it was always designated as "her" gun anyway. The only problem is that the trigger on it is a bit stiff for her. Years ago when we decided this was "her" gun the trigger was manageable but time does its damage. I have a sizable collection of revolvers with better triggers and I will bring mine to her at some point soon and let her choose which one she wants to use for herself. I think she will probably select the 586 or the Colt Agent as they have smoother triggers and slicker controls. She'll keep the Rossi in any event.
I also have a Masonic Bible that was my grandfather's, my dad's, and now it's mine.
But all that is immaterial next to the intangible inheritance that will not rust, fade, or get lost in a ditch. Dad always said that every tub sits on its own bottom. You choose what you want to be. Your occupation didn't matter, how much money you had didn't matter, whether or not you were married didn't matter because it all boils down to one fundamental choice: You can either be upright and walk the straight and narrow, or you can be human garbage, and no one could ever force you to be one or the other.
He thought people should take it on themselves to do what's right because it was right. Dad was always making sacrifices and taking on burdens that were not his because it was how the good guys do things. Whenever I needed anything for school I got it. When his mother in law and father in law almost lost their house, he paid the mortgage when their own children couldn't be bothered to help.
He was among the last of a rare breed, real honest to goodness men who were men without being chauvinist or spiteful, Godly men who do what's right without whining even once and without expecting any sort of reward for it. He was the one who put a hammer and a gun in my hands and made sure I knew how to use them, and he was the one who put a book in my hand and made sure I knew how to read it. He taught me not to hate anyone for their color or creed, nor should I even hate anyone who does wrong, but rather to hate their wrongdoing and hate it passionately. However, he was the first to stand firm and oppose it when wrongdoing was afoot. Righteousness and steadfastness against that which is wicked is often deemed as being fueled by hate in modern times, but I know that's not true.
"Do what's right and you'll never have to explain yourself to anyone." was his motto and he lived by it for better or worse, even when doing so had terrible consequences.
There's just so much more to say but I'm at a loss for more words.
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus.
Goodbye Dad. 24 years was not long enough and if I could relive them all over again forever, I would. I love you Dad and I miss you every day. I know you have a lot of catching up to do with Andrew but I wish you'd stayed with us just one more decade, one more year, one more month, or even just one more day. Everything I could ever aspire to be is now gone.Quote:
The Lord knows the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever.
The things I would have done and said if I'd only known. If I'd only known.
The people you see every day are so precious and fragile in their existence. Live your life every day like it will be the last day you will ever see them because it just might be. You only get one Dad, and not for very long.
My Aunt Phyllis told me something that's been the most helpful. It will never get better. She lost her father when she was 25, just a year older than me, and he's been gone 18 years. The pain never decreases, it never ceases, and not a day goes by you won't think about it. That's the most comforting thought of all however because I don't want to forget anything at all no matter how much it hurts.
I'll stop rambling now. The amount of support from the communities in both Texas and Missouri that each member of the family lives in has been overwhelming. I can tell people are praying for me because I'm taking this much better than I should.
Nothing will ever be the same. The security blanket is gone. At least twice a week I think of something I don't know how to handle, but I always stopped worrying when I realized Dad would know what to do. Ever since he's gone I can't do anything right. I can't even drive my truck without screwing up somehow.
I'm holding up so far. I've got my mom's finances under control so that she's set for life and doesn't even have to work any more if she doesn't want to, I've figured out what we're going to do long term about the house and the car and her insurance and all that, and I'm trying my best to keep my siblings from tearing each other apart. As different as they are, my younger brother and sister are nearly identical in the way they handle things even though they don't see it, and they both handle things by building up a defensive barrier of anger when they're hurt. The tiniest little things have them yelling at me and each other, little stuff that would just get ignored otherwise. You don't send a boy to do a man's job and I'm a piss poor substitute for Dad. Dad was the glue that kept us all stuck together and I'm going to screw this up at some point.
I'll take it one day at a time I suppose.
In the meantime, for better or worse, I've got more gun related things to take care of. The main thing Dad would want me to do right now is do what I normally do.