Often the assumed message when people are in mourning is, "The poor deceased." I don't know what follows death, since I've never been there, so I don't know whether there's any reason to feel sorry for those who have died. What I do know in this case is that there is some reason to feel sorry for the rest of us, for having had Fred taken from our world.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Fred in person, but had quite a bit of e-mail contact with him in the past few years, and several discussions by phone. And that was enough to see that he was a very special person. Of course, that is said about almost everyone when they die, but that is not why I say it here.
Fred had more adventures and experiences than I ever imagined could fit into one lifetime (and I'm sure I only know about a fraction of them). And yet he remained humble and giving to the end. And, even more unusual, he showed that he was always eager to know more, to understand more, and to do more to help improve the world, as long as he was in it. Even when he knew his days on earth were coming to an end, he never stopped thinking and communicating--both of which the world could certainly use more of.
The saying about not being able to "teach an old dog new tricks" didn't apply to Fred. He knew a whole lot, but never claimed to know it all, and remained open to new ideas. His wisdom lay in knowing so much, yet still having an open mind. Having had an amazing military career, for example, he was able to see what was right and what was wrong with the thing he had been a part of--where almost anyone else would think only of justifying his past actions.
Tonight, the world has lost a person of a type and quality that is very rare, and very much needed--perhaps now more than ever. But perhaps a more cheerful way to look at it is this: today Fred was finally relieved of his final tour of duty, self-imposed though it was, having spent so many years doing what he could to help the innocent, to resist injustice, and to enlighten the deceived. It is impossible to know, exactly, how many ways, and through how many people, Fred's efforts will live on. I can only speak for myself when I say that Fred's example will not be forgotten, and will forever set a benchmark of honor, integrity and courage--mental and physical--perhaps never to be attained, but to forever be striven for.
Goodbye, Fred. You made the world a better place.