Last Tuesday, August 23, 2011, at 9:05 PM in McAllen, Texas, my beloved Vietnam brother and dear friend, Preston “Pip” Cleveland Powell Jr., was called to cross over and be with God.
Preston and I were only together for about 6 months in Vietnam, but our bond became strong as we identified with each other in so many ways. We shared common attitudes, beliefs and values about humanity and the brotherhood of man. Preston was always the more religious one of us...I, on the other hand, was a Methodist ;-))
Years later, when we would exchange emails, he would joke about how my incessant “whisper yakking,” would keep his mind off the ever-present fear of attack when we were on platoon night ambush patrols in Vietnam. Those patrols were truly terrifying! Sitting all night in mud as the rain poured down on us. Not knowing when, if, or from where we might get attacked ourselves. But, I had this big guy named Preston Powell to lean on, and I grew to depend on him more than I could have ever imagined. We talked about music and sports, racism and human respect, family and friends, right and wrong. Actually, I did most of the talking (no surprise to those who know me) while Preston mostly listened. But, when he spoke, the words flowed like tea with honey into my heart, warming it, soothing it, and calming it. That was Preston. Then, there was his smile! Oh, my heavens, what a wonderful, penetrating, infectuous smile. It would touch my soul and cause me to smile even in the face of all the fear and tragedy. His smile was heaven sent.
Preston left Vietnam in June, 1968. I had about 6 more months to go. Quite honestly, following the war and our service, we lost track of each other for a long time. But, he came looking for me via email, about 10 years ago, at the end of his 30 year of employment with the Department of Defense as a Computer Specialist. And from that point onward, our communications flowed and it was as if we had never stopped talking.
Also, an angel had come into Preston’s life when Ms Rebecca Lopez became Mrs.Rebecca Lopez Powell! I could tell that Pip was elated and so very much in love. He was a very happy man, and I was so glad for both of them. We talked about getting together, but it never quite worked out. Pip was retired, and moved to McAllen, TX with Rebecca. Through the years they worked in their deep faith in God to establish a new Church which, earlier this year, finally opened its doors as "The Light of Life Free Will Baptist Church."
Then, in June, Preston’s heart began to grow weak, and on August 23rd, God called him home.
Now, I have a heavy heart. I close my eyes and still see him there in Vietnam, flashing that smile. Then, I see Pip and his family with his beautiful wife, Rebecca...happy and so in love. And that smile is STILL there. So, yes. My heart aches terribly right now. But that is my pain and it will subside and be replaced by a very warm feeling, because Preston is no longer in pain. His spirit and memory comforts us all as we close our eyes and see him there.
A few months ago, some friends and loved ones asked Pip how he was feeling as he lay in the hospital...his response was: "I'm as fine as wine and twice as mellow!" I only hope that one day Preston and I can meet again where he will, undoubtedly, have to do some totally serious talking to get the “higher ups” to allow me through those gates! But if he succeeds, we can shake hands and hug and, again we can say “Welcome Home, Brother!”
I love you, my brother - until we meet again...You are indeed "Fine as wine and twice as mellow!"
** Staples Singers - "Respect Yourself"
- " We do not move forward from a middle opinion, which is undemocratic but mediocratic.
We advance from a creative passion "- (Edgar Morin)
- "To photograph is to hold one's breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It's at
that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy."
- Henri Cartier-Bresson.
::Words from Denny:
- My beliefs, and values, have always been strongly tied-to music, especially Jazz, and Blues.
- The following artists and lyrics seem to "sum-up" where my spirit resides:
EARTH WIND AND FIRE;
"HOLD ON TO YOUR SPIRIT,
ALWAYS FEEL YOUR SOUL....
HONOR THE MAGIC IN YOUR HEART"; Earth Wind and Fire