When I was 13 or 14 years old my brother and his friends (they were around 7 or 8) showed up in the backyard with a new kid in tow. Short, dark haired and dark eyed, Tony K was a recent arrival to our close-knit neighborhood. With his Korean-born mother and US Merchant Marine father, Tony arrived in California with only a rudimentary knowledge of English. His father had prepared him well enough. He knew to say "Go Giants" and "Dodgers stink". That was enough to gain him entry into our world, though he quickly progressed to "Niners Rule" and "Cowboys suck", which (of course) made him one of us.
Tony grew into a strapping 6 foot 2 inch man. He married and fathered 3 children. His parents were proud of him. He had become an All-American boy, complete with some problems and lots of triumphs.
Tony did not become a CEO of a company or President of the United States. Instead, he grew into a solid Catholic husband and father, raising his children and loving his wife.
Then, three years ago, Tony was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. There was no cure and treatments would mean weeks of sickness and hardship. However, the treatments, if successful, could prolong his life long enough to see his family prepared, his youngest started on college and give him a chance to contact all of his childhood friends in order to say good-bye.
Tonight I got a call from Twain. Tony has been moved to a local hospital Hospice wing. He has hours left on this earth. The priest has been called and he has received Viaticum (Food for the Journey). His children and wife are present. I will be leaving work this morning and joining the rest of the neighborhood gang to gather at his bedside and say good-bye.
I think of that beautiful little boy, so shy and so scared, who showed up in my backyard with the other kids that bright summer day and I cannot believe how blessed I have been in my life. God has allowed me to see and touch and hear and participate in the lives of some of the greatest Americans this country will ever produce....and that no one will ever hear about because they lived their lives quietly and faithfully - untouched by scandal, trudging the road with bright smiles and reverernt hearts.
May his soul, and the souls of all the Faithful, rest in the Hands of a Merciful God....Tony, when you get to heaven, say hello to Jesus for me.