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Three sentences are not enough

    It was the shortest obituary I have ever seen, less than 50 words:  “Mr. Gordon Jack Cannady, 64, died Monday night in Statesboro.
    He is survived by several cousins.
    The funeral service will be at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Upper Lotts Creek Church.”
    Cold, sad and lonely, the brief acknowledgement was a far cry from telling the story of the man everyone in Portal knew as “Jack Kennedy.”
    Until I read the obituary, I didn’t realize everyone mispronounced his name.
    Jack was well-known in the Portal area as part of the small town’s “local color.”  He was quite fond of beer, imbibed quite regularly, and could often be seen staggering down the road on the way to wherever he holed up for the night.
    But there is a story behind his alcoholism, and there was more to Jack than his penchant for beer.
    Those who never actually carried on a conversation with Jack Cannady may have passed him off as just another drunk. They didn’t know his story.
    Rumor has it that Jack, a responsible, respected hardworking man, started drinking after the death of his wife. Genell, expecting their child, was killed in a car accident. Rumor has it that she was decapitated and Jack was the one who found her so, but family members say that is untrue.
    A cousin said Genell lived long enough for medical personnel to try blood  transfusions, but then died when they were not successful. Another cousin claimed “when his wife died, he died with her.”
    The accident took place in 1968, according to one family member. And that is when Cannady started drinking.
    And drinking. And drinking some more.
    Apparently, he loved his wife so deeply, so much, that he could not live without her unless he had a crutch, and that crutch was alcohol.
    Within the space of seven years, Jack lost his mother and father, as well as his wife and unborn child. He had no one except some half-sisters with whom he was not close at all, and some cousins. He was alone, left to deal with the painful loss of his love, and turned to a life of trying to escape the pain.
    If one didn’t know better, they may have judged him as worthless.
    But behind that alcoholic haze was a man - a man who read avidly and collected Louis L’Amour westerns, who loved his wife with a passion so deep and strong he could not maintain his own strength without her.
    A man who suffered prostate cancer and went for monthly treatments without a close family member to come home to and share his fears and worries.
    A man who served in the military and was an accomplished plumber and electrician.
    “He worked hard all his life and was always helpful,” said one woman who knew him all his life. “He didn’t drink much before his wife died. He never talked much about her.”
    Jack liked working on lawn mowers, and enjoyed helping the elderly folk around Portal keep their mowers going.
    He could be brusque and garrulous, but he could also be affable and when he decided to engage in conversation, his intelligence showed.
    Rumors flew after his death last week that he died of alcohol poisoning. That was untrue. While Jack Cannady could and did put away an impressive amount of alcohol on a daily basis, likely in futile attempts to drown his pain and horrifying memories of his wife’s death, he suffered cancer as well. But what killed him, according to a cousin, was complications after a collapsed lung.
    “He was found outside his camper” and taken to the hospital, the cousin said. During the process to secure approval for treatment of the collapsed lung, he died. “He turned septic,” and was too far gone, the cousin said.
    With no money and no insurance, Jack’s remaining cousins were left to handle affairs. He was cremated, then buried. And although the cousins provided information for the obituary that included the names of his late parents and wife, the few short sentences never mentioned them, and said little about the man known as Jack Cannady.
    I pray Jack is safe and sober, walking hand in hand in Heaven with his wife, whom he loved so much he could not bear to be without.  It is sad that someone who was once a successful and intelligent man threw his life away to drown himself in alcoholism, but what is even sadder is knowing how lost and alone he must have felt, missing his wife and wondering about his unborn child.
    Some may have considered him just the town drunk, but they didn’t know or appreciate his story. And no matter how he lived, the intelligent man who loved his wife so deeply deserves more than a tiny little three-sentence obituary.

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