Saying Farewell…

The Man in Pink…

The end of the long and winding road is in sight for my father-in-law, Erwin “Boyd” Jones, as he lay resting in a nursing home, his breathing becoming more and more labored and shallow. All indications are that today will be the day he leaves us, although one can never be sure in such matters. After all, it really isn’t our “call” when it’s that time, but this one seems pretty certain. So we wait, and we say our farewells and offer our thanks for all of the wonderful things he did for us through the years. 

He’s the man in pink! One knew that Boyd Jones was around, either on the tennis court on a sunny Florida day, or nattily attired in his  Sunday “best,” with pink as the primary color of choice. Yes, the pink tennis shirt and wristbands were his trademark, and his game was as cool and pleasant as the color he wore! He was a splendid player–long tanned legs and arms–able to get to balls, seemingly with little effort expended. He always seemed to be a step ahead of the opponents, and while they seemed to struggle and have to put out every ounce of energy to keep the game going, Boyd, on other hand, made the plays that were necessary without much effort. I came to realize once that it was more due to his intelligence on the court rather than his superior physical talent, although he was in much better shape and condition at his age than many of the younger ones who took him on. And so he’d score his point, win his game, his set, his match and be gracious in winning. A humble man, he would never gloat over a win but be thankful that he had the opportunity to take part in a game and share the wonderful friendships through the years with fellow players. Afterwards, he’d share a cold iced tea with the guys he’d just put away and laugh and revel in the spirit of it all–that which was bigger than any game itself. He saw God’s hand in all things and lived his life in the celebration of it–especially in those tennis opportunities. This was a fact I came to know and appreciate over the years, and he never really altered his course of living, and we who remain here can be thankful for that terrific legacy he left with us.

When things didn’t always go his way, he had a motto that he always liked to share: “Hang in there!” Those three words seem to sum up the kind of guy he has always been since I first met him back in 1974. In his own life, there had been many occasions where his faith and purpose would be well tested–as is the case for most folks–and his determination to simply “hang in there” when all else seemed futile or hopeless carried the day more often than not. Losing his oldest daughter much too soon to that evil breast cancer was one such occasion. Long before that, there were the day-to-day pressures of running an independent business, providing for a family, and merely forging ahead in this world–the typical crises everyone has to face one way or another. There was a series of health issues that began in the mid-2000s, eventually leading to a stroke, leaving Boyd without the use of his right arm and leg.

Like most World War II veterans, he had an unyielding appreciation for the American work ethic. He and his wife, Evelyn, were close in all things and remained so to the end of her time (two years ago). When she passed away in the same nursing home, in a bed a few feet from Boyd, it left a fathomless chasm in Boyd. From that moment on, he no longer had the zest and desire to journey onward, and he focused on this day which apparently has finally arrived. 

During his life, he learned to pick out the important things, be cool about how to handle situations, and lead by example–not in a “preachy” kind of way, either. That was Boyd. Over the years, we spent many, many wonderful spring breaks with Boyd and Evelyn at their various homes in sunny Florida. I even talked them into moving across the state from Stuart to Sarasota so I could watch the White Sox in Spring Training when we’d be there each spring break! What other in-laws would do that, I ask? And Boyd was a Cubs fan, and I’ll forgive him for that, and we would have lots of good times bantering back and forth on that issue. For Boyd, I’ll be a Cubs fan in his honor!

What more is there to write here? I strongly believe that he’s a happy guy today, knowing that he will soon be with Ev and all will be calm and at peace. The coolness of pink will be the predominant color when that moment comes, and I pity anyone there who tries to pick a tennis game with him. Go get ‘em, Boyd! And safe travels and Godspeed forever. Hang in there! With love on this road we travel…MLA

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