Eschol Graham and I were very good friends. We both had other friends that might have been our best friends. However, our close friendship was based on our mutual love for two beautiful little girls, Chelsey and Rebecca, who called me Papa and called Eschol, Granddaddy.
Eschol and I had shared many hours of ‘grandpa’ time at birthday parties for the girls, for our children, our spouses, and for one another. We had spent many hours of holiday time together and had even shared in more than one family vacation trip. We shared family, the same faith, and many of the same core values in life. My heart was broken and devastated with the rest of the family when Eschol died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the young age of 58.
Eschol died in August following his 58th birthday. In July of the following year, as a birthday gift for my 58th birthday, Eschol’s widow, Judy, gave me his “Blues Brothers” hat and sunglasses. Having purchased the hat while on a trip with Judy a little while before his death, Eschol had never worn the hat and glasses publicly. Once he had seen the hat and purchased it, Eschol took Judy from store to store to store insistent that the glasses be perfect for the look to be authentic. He had planned to dress as one of the “Blues Brothers” later in the year for a costume party.
The costume party turned out to be my birthday party in the following year. Judy presented these “bittersweet” gifts to me at a family gathering in a Red Lobster’s restaurant. We were seated at one of the farthest tables from the door. My wife, Sandra, asked if I wanted to put the hat and glasses back in the bag with along with other gifts for the ride home. I replied emphatically just as Eschol would have, “No way, I’m wearing these gifts home!”
Donning my “bittersweet” gifts, I proceeded through the restaurant to the nodding, approving smiles on face after face of other patrons. After a couple of ‘thumbs up’ I couldn’t help think of how much the joy I felt should have been Eschol’s to enjoy. After feeling the tinge of sadness, I straightened my shoulders and strutted out the door and through the parking lot like I was “soul man-Jake” John Belushi.
-Donald R. Sansbury, 2013