Anyone who’s seen the remote corners of the news has, by now, caught on that a friend of ours died in an aircraft accident out here in Italy. This pretty much tops off (and takes the cake of) my month of loss. I won’t recap what happened; that can be found here.  But I will say that I had somewhat of a wake up to life as I drove home from hearing the finality of his body being found and being with his family.  Some say you can die happy when you know that you’ve affected everyone in a positive way and made their lives better or more meaningful.  Gaza did just that.

To Gaza

GazaYour wonderful example of leading a fulfilling life got me reflecting on my own life. I’d like to think we are cut from some of the same cloth, you and I. You definitely followed the beat of your own drum and I’d like to think that I do as well… I’ve always admired and respected people who were strong enough to do that. Like you, I loved going camping and hiking, I racked up quite a few skydives in my day, as well as dabbled in rock climbing. I loved hanging around people. But then, years back, I think I diverged from that. As I reflect upon your legacy while looking at myself, I’ve slowly become a cynical hermit.

You were the most fit person I’ve ever met.  You could conquer any physical activity with poise.  You used this to fuel your love of nature – you consistently found ways to go on adventures through the physical activity that you loved.  I want to be adventurous again, like you…  and in watching you these past 3 years, I think I have a pretty good coach to get me there.

You had this magnetic ability to easily make friends with people outside our squadron.  You’re the only dude I know that came to Italy and truly cared about learning the Italian culture and language.  Sure, a lot of us enjoyed the culture, but none of us took classes or time out of our “busy” schedules to immerse ourselves in it.  You brought others out of their shells and encouraged them to nature.  You actually took the time to know your neighbors and small community.  You loved and played with kids that weren’t your own.  I want to be magnanimous again, like you… and in seeing all the people you’ve affected in your past 32 years, I think I have pretty good inspiration to get me there.

Gaza, in life you were always genuine.  And when God took you back,  he slapped me in the face with a wake up call: you are one of the best role models I could ever aspire to emulate. Sorry buddy, I’m not giving up eating meat. But I am going to make a conscious effort to get back to nature, to get back to adventure, and to get back to people from this point forward – and every time I do, the thought of you will always linger in my mind until I can thank you directly once more.

Gaza

You’ve given me a lot to chew on. Blue Skies my friend.

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15 Responses to Snack Time with Gaza

  1. Snakeye says:

    All the pictures were grabbed from Gaza’s website: http://lucandcassy.blogspot.com/

    It looks like he’s inspired others too… Pam found this on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LiveLikeLuc

  2. Very nice Snakeye. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog entries and of course this one is extra special. A Beautiful tribute to Gaza. He will be greatly missed. He truly made an impact on everyone he met. I know my kids will be telling stories about him for a long time.

  3. Lola Michele says:

    Beautiful tribute Travis. Our hearts are heavy over here. Wish we were there with all of you. Brick and Christine were over last night, there was a bit of comfort here. Of course a toast with Jack Daniels was made to Gaza. Much love!!

  4. Jordana Kennedy says:

    Spoken of a man who knew Luc well. We miss you guys to and lets so more “Loving Life Luc Style” as soon as we can get together.
    hugs to you Pam and the kids.
    Jordana and Phats

  5. Jjamhardin says:

    I love this!!!

  6. Mike Winslow says:

    A fitting personal tribute to a fellow flyer! If we all could even be capable of living a life that we relish while having an everlasting positive influence on those we meet and know, wouldn’t it be a great world.
    Missing Man formations are sombering, but when you know the angel going skyward, you can’t help but shed a tear.

  7. Nicholas Ervin says:

    Well said, Snakeye. I wish I could be there with you all — those of us at home in America remain “Always Green” and we’re thinking of you all with heavy hearts.
    -Splinter

  8. shereecox@aol.com says:

    I don’t know you. I am Sheree,Cassy’s Aunt. This was just beautiful!

  9. Sue Kees says:

    You don’t know me either, but I’m Alex’s mother in law. When you were in his presence, Luc had a special gift of making you feel like you were the most important person on the face of the earth. He enjoyed life to the fullest and crammed 100 years of living into a short 32. I don’t remember if I ever thanked him for his service, but I will make sure that Alex knows I appreciate what he does more than he can ever know.

  10. Marianne Snyder says:

    So well said, Lester. We will continue to pray for his family!

  11. Megan Mathias says:

    I am Lucas’ aunt Megan – always “Auntie M” to him. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Lucas. I know that I am a better person for having known him. Now all those who knew him have the responsibility to be ambassadors on his behalf – we need to go out into the world and spread his light. Live like Luc.

  12. Snakeye says:

    All – thanks for the council – it is definitely needed at this time… for me, for you. Gaza’s brother and family have set up a website for updates and donations at http://www.lucasgruenther.com/
    I’ve also included this website in the Blog Roll under “Air Force Friends”

  13. Terri VanKirk says:

    That was beautiful! You sound like a wonderful friend.

  14. Hairy says:

    Well said. He definitely packed a lot of life into the short time he had.

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