I've grown to dread December. There's a strong December tradition in our family - a pact of sorts. It's unstated but understood. Called "Die in December", you can also get credit for carrying on the tradition if you die in the last half of November. However if you linger until the stroke of midnight January 1st, you obviously haven't felt the burden of familial duty.
This year it was my cousin Mack who carried the familial tradition forward by passing away on the 5th of December. Mack was a stellar guy. We shared a childhood a lifetime ago when summers were ten years long and the Oklahoma twilights were filled with fireflies.
Mac was several years older than I, big for his age (he topped out at 6'5") while I was still wearing child's size three dresses at age seven. He was red-headed, blue-eyed, freckled, the perfect model for a Norman Rockwell painting of the All-American boy of the late 40's and 50's. But he was as a child, and as a man, a gentle giant.
He grew up to be a career military man, and for many years we had no contact. But about a decade ago I tracked him down on the web and we began writing back and forth. It was as if the years between hadn't happened.
He was laid to rest with full military honors on Sunday. He will be missed by his wife, seven children, many grandchildren and a cousin who remembers how he carried her on his shoulders and ran, laughing with each bounding step, through the long long memories of yesterday.