Bryan Alan Devlin (grandson)
This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says we have three great gifts: faith, hope and love…and the greatest of these is love. A little hope, a lot of faith and an abundance of love for and from my family and friends is what keeps me going. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love my grandchildren. Bryan and I had a special bond. You see, I had two daughters from a previous marriage when I met and married his grandmother, Marie. Well, when we got married, three teenaged step-daughters came with the package. Several years later, her youngest daughter, Linda, blessed us with our first grandchild. And blessing of blessings, it was another girl! Don’t get me wrong, I love Nikki with all my heart, but after years of swimming in a sea of estrogen, I’m not ashamed to admit I was elated when Bryan arrived. Finally, I was getting a fishing partner. In fact, one of my favorite memories is when Bryan was no more than three or four years old. We were living in Lake Worth at the time and I decided to take Bryan fishing across the street in one of the canals in John Prince Park. We got all dressed up in our fishing garb, grabbed our fishing gear, Bryan put on his little inverted sailor hat and I gave him the bait bucket to carry, which, by the way, was about as big as he was, and off we went. I figured the trip would only last about fifteen or twenty minutes. The little tyke shouldn’t last much longer than that.
After a while, I asked him, “Are you having fun?”
He said, “Yep!”
“Are you ready to go home?”
Even at that young age, he was a little man of few words.
His grandmother had made us some sandwiches, so we ate our sandwiches and fished up one side of that canal and down the other. Each time I asked him if he was ready to go, I got the same response. “Nope!” We were there fishing the rest of the day.
Years later when he was in high school, he began having some problems in school. He wasn’t applying himself and we were afraid he was beginning to hang out with the wrong crowd. His mother called me expressing her concerns and wanted to know if I would have a talk with him. We all need a passion in our life, something to hang onto to, to motivate us. I got together with him at a café in the mall with some other guys … I don’t remember who was with us, but I started talking about this need for passion. Bryan kept staring at me intently.
After a moment, he said, “Grandpa, can I ask you a question?”
I said, “Sure.”
“Is this going to be another one of your lectures?”
“No, I guess not.” Talk about getting the wind knocked out of your sails.
Sometime later, Bryan got in touch with me to tell me that he had decided to join the Army and wanted to get my reaction. I think he was looking for my approval and was surprised at my response. He knew I had a lot of anti-war sentiments and was quite liberal when it came to such things, but I’m also a veteran. I served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam. My father was career soldier who retired from the U.S. Air Force the same year I graduated from high school. I grew up in the military. I told Bryan that I thought that was the smartest decision he had ever made. If anything could help him find a direction in his life, it would be the military. And it did. He found his niche. He served proudly and he served honorably.
“Father, you have a remarkable young man in your presence and an honorable soldier to help you guard the gates of Heaven.”
Bryan, I love you with all my heart. I’m so proud of you. And I have the utmost respect for you. Farewell, my son.
[At this point I saluted the casket, then walked over and hugged his mother.]