Saturday, November 22, 2008
He came into the coffee shop probably every other day.
Coffee, black. Maybe a few re-fills. Once in awhile, he'd get something to eat. After awhile I began to notice things; his clothes hung on his once huge 6'2 frame and his hair was thinner. His face became gaunt and while he was often gruff but kind, it was obvious that he was sick.
His name was Ray.
I eventually found out through another customer that Ray had fought in the Vietnam war and that his entire company had been sprayed with Agent Orange. All of them had since died-those that made it back home had died of cancer; which was exactly what Ray was dying of. He was actually stopping by our shop after his chemo treatments to spend some time with his friends and to find a bit of comfort in a simple cup of coffee. With no family and few friends left alive, the community at the coffee shop became his support system.
They would sit outside, a group of about six men all ranging from late 30s to 50s, smoking cigarettes and sipping coffee, trading stories about the 60s and discussing motorcycles. Hubs was part of the group and when he told them that he was "going to marry that girl who served them coffee", they all thought he was crazy.
Ray, on the other hand, told him to go for it. Why not? Enjoy life because you never know when it might be taken away. When he found out that Hubs had been successful, he gave him a high five and winked at me with a grin.
A year later, still holding on, there was Ray; at our wedding, even though it meant he had left the hospital against medical advice to attend. He laughed, he cried, he shook hands with Hubs and gave me the warmest hug of the evening before he quietly slipped out the door.
We never saw him again.
Please support the troops that are overseas, and read this page from Survivor Corps about their new program to support troops that are returning from the Middle East. Being from Canada, I had never really fully realized what it was like for the US Troops until we traveled through the USA and actually met soldiers being deployed and their families.
Many people have supported the movement to bring them home, but let's make sure to support them when they get here. For guys like Ray who gave (and continue to give) their very lives so that we could enjoy peace here.
They deserve so much more then just a cup of coffee.