I can still see the laughter.
Tears squeezed out of the corners of his eyes while he gasped for breath, he was always the best audience.
There was always a kiss, often a hug, when I saw him, no matter where we were.
He embraced life and the gift of every day, smiling all the time.
I have to think really hard to try and remember a time when Sheldon Allen wasn't good natured and jolly. He played Santa, comforted disaster victims, called people to rustle up donations and was an eager participant when he had the opportunity to hug a pretty girl.
He and his favorite pretty girl - his lovely wife Pat - were constant companions, working and playing side by side to make our community a better place. But Sheldon never made it look like work.
On Saturday, I'm going to go to the Club - the Sierra Vista Boys and Girls Club up the hill, which Sheldon helped build - for a final farewell to this wonderful man.
Sheldon taught so many people how to give from the heart. He and Pat have always been there when the community needed something - anything. If you resisted his charms, Sheldon usually could persuade you to see it his way and be glad you changed your mind.
Even if it meant holding your hand.
True story. I used to be terrified of needles and the thought of donating blood was out of the question. After a few long, persuasive discussions, I agreed to show up at the Red Cross when the bloodmobile was in town, only if Sheldon held my hand to allay my fears.
I think my husband had to ask permission to hold my other hand, because clearly, Sheldon was in charge of my epiphany (I now have a couple of gallon pins. He was very proud).
If you ever needed reassurance, Sheldon was there. He was an official greeter on opening nights at the Canyon Theatre Guild; while Pat and the ladies poured champagne, he would make sure every patron got a smile and hello.
He just had a calming manner and always had time for you. We could all take a lesson from that. Making time.
They tell me Sheldon was an attorney. I had his business card and figured he did something else with his time when he wasn't volunteering, but he seemed to be everywhere people needed him, whenever they needed him.
I know he was wise. He had a way of cutting to the chase when others tried to dance around an issue. When I was transferred from a reporting position to a website editor soliciting "citizen journalism," no sales pitch I'd been taught could fool him.
"People can submit their own stories," I remember telling him. "They won't have to wait for someone else to write them."
I'll never forget the look in his eye, somewhere between a twinkle and a stern gaze.
"You just want me to do your job?" he asked, knowing full well that I hated what I was doing.
I'm glad I'm back writing. I'm glad he read my stuff and made sure to tell me exactly what he thought, whether I was right or wrong - and believe me, he told me the truth.
But most of all, I'm so glad that I had Sheldon in my life. He's settling into his new volunteer position, organizing the guardian angels, making sure there are pretty ones that look just like Pat on both his arms.
Thanks, Sheldon, for the laughter, the guidance, the advice and the kisses. I hope you know how much we loved you then and love you still.