I went to a wake last week for man my dad served with in the Army. Dad doesn’t like to go to these things alone, so I went with him. Besides, Irish wakes are usually more fun than a Cubs game.
The showing was in Park Ridge, so my old man said he wanted to have a drink or two at Curragh on Northwest before we went. Sure enough, some of his other Army buddies were already at the bar putting back a few when we arrived. I knew most of these guys from various functions around town, christenings, weddings, block partys, etc.
We made it to the funeral home around 6:30 and it was almost full. Little old ladies trying to remember the names of all these strange people, kids running around waiting to be smacked, told to sit down and be respectful, people waiting in line to visit with the deceased and the family, and in the back we had the family’s friends, mostly cops and suits. Of course, before we could get in line, Dad being Dad, tells me to “get those damn kids to sit down and be respectful” and then join him in the line. My pleasure.
So, we’re standing in line behind an old lady who’s claiming to be a descendent of Anton Cermak, when I see the Monsignor move, exposing the widow and a guy in a wheelchair of sorts, who looked like Stephen Hawkins, except in much worse shape if you can imagine. I knew the woman was the widow, but who was this guy? Dad said “John” is the youngest of the five children and left it at that. However, I had never heard of the guy before tonight.
After maybe ten minutes we’re greeted by the widow, who Dad and I talked to for a few minutes, then approached the deceased and said a prayer. We then went to the back to join the group of family friends and have a drink. It is an Irish wake you know. So, we spent the next hour or so asking about various people we haven’t seen in a while, who’s kids are doing what now, so on and so forth. But the entire time I kept catching myself looking over at “John” wondering if he was born with this way or if he was in an accident, and if so, how bad of shape was he really in.
Just before 8:00 the place starts to empty, so Dad and I go over to say goodnight to the widow and pay our last respects. As soon as we walked up, the widow asks Dad if he remembers John, Dad smiles and says “Of course, how are you John”. Well, John is in bad enough shape that he can barely move his eyes to look up at my Dad. Now, I’m sick to my stomach knowing John will never have the opportunity to jump for joy once our Bears bring home another title or run down to the corner to catch a cab, so he won’t be late for a party, so on and so on.
Then the widow puts her arm around John, looks at me and says “John’s been through so much in his life, he’s my inspiration.” She went on to explain that John was twelve when he fell out of a second story window and injured his spine, causing him to use a wheelchair. Then when he was twenty-two, the van transporting him to a medical appointment was blindsided and John was subsequently paralyzed from the neck down, plus he’s had several operations on his brain, which explained the scars. THEN, two years ago, he was diagnosed with shingles. But that’s not all. The widow goes on to state that they call him “Lucky”, because he’s sooooo lucky to be alive. That’s right, they call him “Lucky”.