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Saying goodbye to a loved one

Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, beginnings and endings and everything in between.

Last week the Long family lost someone very special. My father-in-law, A.C. Long, is now definitely in a better place.

We are all comforted in our belief he is now with friends and family who have gone on before him – spending time with “sugah babe” (my mother-in-law, Pearlie); the grandson he so loved and mourned, Jeffrey, and chewing the fat with my dad, Joe, perhaps even playing a round of dominoes (do they have dominoes in heaven?)

He was a good man who loved westerns and “kicking shows.”

“Walker, Texas Ranger” was a particular favorite, combining a cowboy philosophy with Chuck Norris’s ability to take on four or five big, burly opponents and kick the livin’ daylights out of them before they even knew what happened.

Mr. A.C. liked to look the part of cowboy, with string ties and bolos, western-style belt buckles and several cowboy hats in his wardrobe. So it was fitting his beautiful Alamo bolo tie joined him in his casket.

On his wall at home was a U.S. flag that had flown over the Alamo in San Antonio, another gift from Benny’s brother Bobby and our sister-in-law Pam. He prized such items and displayed them with pride.

That flag will eventually go back home to San Antonio as we continue to sort through the flotsam and jetsam of a truly dedicated pack rat’s life.

In the aftermath of his death, the family began to go through old photos and papers, finding everything from the boys’ report cards and immunization schedules to Miss Pearlie’s 1942 Boomerang and receipts for television repairs done long ago (TV repair was his main hobby for years – he was also buried with a cathode tube).

One thing he worried a great deal about leaving behind, when we believed he would probably need to rehab after his surgery, was his faithful companion, Lucky Cat.

Lucky hasn’t always lived up to his name, poor fellow, having been punched up by unfriendly cats, requiring multiple trips to the vet’s office and more than one drainage tube in his beautiful old soul of a face. Lucky, however, is a stoic, and never once has he complained.

Lucky is with us now. So far he has spent most of his time lounging in the guest bedroom, napping a lot and kneading on my fake fur throw with obvious pleasure.

The house may not be familiar to him, but we are.

We hope he will be content and happy here, in spite of the haughty diva cat Puddin’ and the rest of the felines.

And so life goes on. In May, another Relay For Life arrives in Butler County. We have a western theme this time around. I think I’ve already spotted the cowboy hat I want to wear.

It seems a fitting tribute to my second father.