Thank you, so many, for sharing your love and memories of George.
Dad was an immense man, a man in full, who touched many people, and impacted the course of important human events – he helped end wars.
I am going to focus on one part of George that you may not know much about, because George was very private with his inner self.
George Cadman Wilson was the strongest man I ever knew.
He schlepped and lugged a rifle, armor, and backpack among Mud Soldiers in Vietnam. There he found great dignity, integrity, and selflessness – and, yes, humor.
At age 75, Dad enlisted as an embedded correspondent in the Iraq War drive to Baghdad. The young soldiers asked and thought, “Hey, how old are you? You must be at least 50.”
Dad had two major heart surgeries, in 1979 and about 1995. Dad was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome in 2001; this is sometimes caused by Agent Orange used in Vietnam … MDS kills most people in 6-7 years … Dad sailed past that.
Last March 2013, George and I went to Los Cabos, Mexico. He met an attractive 40-something journalist from Canada, and joined her for a trip to a fishing camp up north … His parting words were, “Jim, I’ll meet you at the airport Saturday.” There was a raw strength and masculinity to George.
He also had the strength to be sensitive, to cry and feel other’s pain. He certainly did this for me as I struggled from deep coma and traumatic brain injury for 35 dark days in 1977, and for many years beyond. In January, when we had an important family matter, apart from Dad’s cancer, Dad wrapped me in his arms and fought to find reason with life’s events, and we sobbed together.
The comfort George has given others is greater than any I have known or seen.
On Tuesday, February 11, two days after visiting with dear friends here with us today, Dad could barely communicate as he battled raging fever and sepsis that poisoned his blood. Abeje and I were at his bedside continuously, anointing Dad, providing morphine and other care.
This Titanic strong man, this New Jersey and Pennsylvania track star, rose to his final hurdle. I held and kissed him, calling my, Kathy's, and all our love into his ear, as he fought with every last fiber the air hunger that in the end took him from us and upward to heaven. I kissed and spoke to George as his breathing ceased, and caressed his wrist and neck until his pulse was no more.
George was an immensely strong man. His strength is not lost. You see it in his family. Kathy who works a farm, teaches school, and raises a beautiful daughter with Jason. Jim, me, who lived when very few expected him to survive, and fought mightily to gain successful footing in academics, at work, and family. Nathan, his grandchild, who survived a horrific accident when a truck hit him while riding in Tucson; he went on to win and place high in major bike races in the US and abroad.
The Wilson family is a strong family, not just raw physicality, but a family of deep love and courage.
My father gives us all a lesson, an example of a life lived quite well, and the strength to be kind. Let us carry this forward. Thank you.