The eulogy was about to begin for Forrest Jefferson Davis. The room was filled with about 250 people in the traditional setting one finds in Kansas.
A thirty five year old woman ascended the podium. To the right was a screen and a movie projector was set up.
She looked out to the crowd, gained her composure and began.
“This funeral is about Dad, but I need so say something about Gramps first though to build up to the short move we have. When Gramps got back from the War. The big war. The Dubbya Dubbya Two war, he had an old war buddy named Phil who worked with him in the South Pacific as a medic. Dad never talked about the war.”
“He was a MEDIC.”
She let that sink in.
“Anyway, gramps always kept things clean. Always. He never let anything be messy. But when I opened up an old suitcase he kept in the attic, I found his field medic kit. It included scalpels and other tools for patching up the wounded so they could be transported to a hospital. It was canvas and had straps that you rolled around it to keep snug.”
She held up the medic field kit. It was small, about seven inches long. ”
She unwrapped the strands and held up a scalpel.
“This scalpel is stained with the blood of someone I will never know. Now, my grandfather, the neatest man in the world NEVER washed the scalpel and other tools from the last soldier he tended. This is unheard of for him.”
She paused again and got choked.
“He wrapped it all up in the canvas, threw it in his bag, and came home to grandma and let the memories bake in the attic and never talked about it.”
“But grandma always said it took grandfather years before he ever really came home after his stint as a medic. After his first year home, his friend Phil came to see him and brought him a camera for his birthday. Dad was proud and wouldn’t take so expensive a gift, but Phil reminded him that he saved his life in the war. Even so, he STILL said no, so Phil offered to trade the camera for gramps old war watch. Phil’s Military Watch got broken in the war and he never got another one issued.”
Phil raised his hand in the crowd showing off the watch.
“There it is! Thank you Professor Phillip.”
“YOU KNEW gramps would love it didn’t you!”
Phil shrugged his gray head and sagging shoulders.
“You see, Phil offered it to him if and only IF, he took a short movie of his son running the hundred yard dash over at Hornet stadium every year of his life. That way, he said, he could give his son the gift of seeing his body change and grow into a man. Gramps LOVED the idea and started out by carrying dad as an infant for the whole hundred yards. This spurred him to became quite the amateur film maker. He wore that camera out and was always filming something. Filming life brought a shell-shocked human back TO life. Every year he would film dad running that 100 yard dash. And after he passed on, my Dad kept up the tradition.”
She started tearing up.
Kyle, her brother, stepped up and continued.
“That 100 Yard movie project meant a lot to Dad. He always made sure Gramps films were taken well care of but especially the 100 Yard project. I put the entire film on digital and it will be available on YouTube. But it is too long for a full viewing now. The entire piece is way over an hour. But … I took the liberty of editing out the best runs and putting them to music.
He pushed play and let the movie run.
As it played, the increase in film quality got better as the years progressed. Sound showed up as well as color. People started tearing up and were struck deeply to see their dear friend and relative grow through the years. As he got older he got faster and faster and then he got slower and slower.
Kyle paused the film.
“Now we are going to play his last run. This run was after dad had his stroke. We tried to get him to not run but he would have no such nonsense.”
Kyle steeled himself.
“My father’s last run.”
Fred William Davis was at the starting line with a cane. Kyle was offering him his walker and he waved it down with a scowl. From the end of the 100 yard alley he looked like a ghost. Slowly, he walked with great effort. His left side struggling to match his right.
It took five full minutes for him to reach eighty eight yards before he fell. Kyle ran up to help him and people viewed his father yelling and slapping and kicking his son to get away. Kyle tried to pick him up.
Fred bit him – hard.
Kyle screamed “Ow!” and put his father on the ground.
The mourners laughed. A few howled. Phil just plain lost it.
Then the painfully slow crawl began. His clothes were getting ruined by the track, but he didn’t care. The months in bed had weakened his whole body such that progress was in inches. The film stopped and showed an Olde Time silent movie panel that said:
“One hour later.”
The film resumed with Fred ten feet away from the finish line. He lunged forward and dropped from a crawl to lying face down.
“Dad let me help.”
“I won’t let them see and hear me NOT FINISH! People will see this film. Do you want them to see the film of my life as a QUITTER?”
“I’m NOT a quitter.”
His father breathed laboriously. He obviously was fighting tears. He tried hard three more times to move and on the third try let out a cry that already knew that he knew there was nothing left.
He laid there silent. The film showed another panel:
“Thirty Minutes Later…”
Fred was still in the same spot. He sat up and took a drink from Kyle.
“Son, right now … I AM a failure. I … I … cannot finish. There is not enough strength.”
“Did you have enough strength when you did this as a baby dad?”
“No, of course not. I was a baby.”
“No shame there. No shame here. Just don’t bite my ass.”
Kyle picked him up and carried him across the finish line and had the presence of mind to put his father’s good hand in range of the controls of the camera. Fred reached up and turned off the camera and the screen went blank.
Kyle turned off the projector and was a total mess. But he summoned his courage and finished the eulogy.
“Gramps carried him through his first run as a baby. I carried him through his last run as a frail old man kicking, biting and screaming. But in between, nobody ran at life like my father or saw it like Grandpa. Phil. thank you for giving my grandfather a camera when he needed a new lens for life so he could SEE the world differently.”
Phil nodded his head respectively as his left hand and features shook from Parkinsons.
“Your g-g-g-granddad saved a lot of mens l-lives in the war. I saw him run like a gazelle with a wounded soldier on his back. This is a family of people who leave NO ONE behind.”
The funeral followed standard mortuary protocol from that point on. They played Amazing Grace. They carried out the casket. They went to the cemetery and Fred was buried.
The next day at Hornet Stadium, the three children of Kyle started a new filming tradition. Kyle was still at the finish line poised with the camera. But this time, at their father’s cue, they all three ran as fast as they could – holding hands.
And they still do.