Losing a loved one is painful. I remember dancing with my mother-in-law on my wedding day. She wore a turban to hide the effects of chemo. It was her last dance. Her farewell tour ended five short months later, near Christmas. My father-in-law was next. Then my dad. Dad crammed a whole lot of living into his last tour of duty, a mere thirty-five days. Relatives were live-streaming through my sister's home like a Macy's homecoming parade. Someone I love dearly is now in Hospice. My Aunt Mary is in Heaven calling, "red rover, red rover, send Larry right over." Uncle Larry's three precious children are holding on tight. They know how the game ends. It's gut wrenching on this side of the line separating Heaven and earth.
Uncle Larry's mother-in-law is already staging the after-party. St. Peter checked her luggage at the gate long ago. "Two suitcases?" he questioned.
"One for my clothes and one for the booze," Grammy Alice replied with a wink.
"The master turns water in wine," an exasperated St. Peter reminded, opening the gate for the new arrival.
"You might as well keep it open and come inside, Peter," she whispered. "When my son-in-law gets here, you're not going to be able to stop him. He can't wait to be re-united with my daughter, Mary."
"It's going to be a while, Mrs. Mulligan. Those grandchildren and great-grandchildren of yours don't want Larry's farewell tour to end yet. Geez! They're so strong-willed."
My favorite singer, Phil Collins, announced his retirement in 2011. Although he may be taking a mulligan on his decision to say good-bye, his words echo the final thoughts on our minds when it's our time to let go – Take me home. I dedicate this to the McElroy family. ¡Vaya con Dios, Uncle Larry!