Back in 2020, I made it to Africa. I’ve written about the trip to Ghana, West Africa. This was a marvelous journey to my ancestral home. Accompanying me were Chris, my wife, my oldest child, Felicia, My cousin Hansel and his wife Martha. For those of you who’ve read some of my posts about the trip, you know it was more than a vacation for me. It was a spiritual journey, an adventure like none I’ve experienced before. One contributing element to the quality of the experience was having Hansel along for the ride. Hansel is a cousin I spent a lot of time with as a child. We used to trapse up and down the dusty roads of Cross County Arkansas, looking for things to do among the bushes and creeks that offered dangers as well as fun. I was three years older than Hansel. There were some unfortunate circumstances that haunted Hansel’s childhood; however, I won’t dwell on that. Regardless of what those might have been, we know that children often can find joy regardless of what life throws their way.
On November 29, 2022, Hansel made his exit from this plain of existence. Losing friends and family members is always an emotionally trying experience. With Hansel, this experience was uniquely different. After I graduated from high school, I lost contact with Hansel. He moved from our tiny hometown of Wynne, Arkansas and relocated to Nebraska. I saw him when he came back to Wynne for his father’s (my uncle’s) funeral. Except for that, I didn’t see him for years, until he and Martha began returning to family reunions and funerals. He had built a life for himself which was qualitatively much better than the one he lived back when were kids. He had spent time in the military, where he learned skills that were transferable to the civilian sector. After his time in the military, he had a successful career in the petroleum industry. Five years ago, fed up with the cost of living in California, Hansel and Martha moved to Sierra Vista, Arizona. I recall a conversation I had with him while we were in Ghana about the joy he was experiencing living in Sierra Vista. He talked about how much he was enjoying living in a small town that had all the amenities one would ever want.
On February 18, 2023, I attended a memorial service for Hansel at the little church he attended in Sierra Vista. I’m not one to attend a lot of memorial services. For a good part of my life, I could say without doubt that I had attended fewer funerals than I have appendages on my body. Unfortunately, that claim changed within the last two decades. As I’ve grown older, there are more people who’ve touched my life making it my duty to pay my respects to them once they die. Hansel was one of those people. Making the trip from Little Rock, Arkansas to Sierra Vista, Arizona was a tiny price to pay to say goodbye to my cousin.
Hansel had only lived in Sierra Vista for five years. As Listened to the heartfelt words of the members of his church pay homage to him, I was amazed at how he had impacted them so much in such a small period. I plan to write about Hansel’s church (The Sierra Vista Church of God) in another blog; however, I wanted to mention it as a precursor to that planned blog. The best way for me to describe how the members of the Sierra Vista Church of God felt about Hansel is they loved him dearly.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.
It always is sad to lose someone. Though they might have been close at some point in the past, and even if the connection had frayed over the years, they still have a warm spot in our hearts.
We have reached that point in life where many people we once knew have now passed on. One of the first items I check in alumni magazines is the obituaries. With increasing inevitability, a familiar name is among those listed.
It would be unfortunate to soon join them now that I feel more satisfied with life than at any other time. I intend to hang around as long as permitted, if only to make laudable remarks about those who go prior to me.
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Professor, good to hear from you. Thanks for the comments. I remember you saying a while ago that you were reducing the regularity with which you normally post. I must admit that I miss your professorial offerings. Please consider serving us up something soon on some current issue. Might I suggest the conservative pushback in state houses around the country to they seem to consider “woke gone wild”.
It’s wonderful that Hansel turned his troubled life into a rich and rewarding life.
I’ve also attended more funerals/memorial services in recent years than I’d like. I remember the hubris of youth and thinking I’d never go to a funeral because I thought they were pointless and macabre. It was only after losing some people I really cared about that I understood that funerals are not for the deceased, they are for the grieving family. It is a sincere form of honor to attend a person’s final gathering.