Many adjectives can be used to describe longtime Mining Journal columnist and book author Ben Mukkala: folksy, humorous, home-spun, down-to-earth and witty immediately come to mind.
But Ben's actions in recent weeks have spurred the reminder of another word that most definitely applies to him: Heroic.
Not that Marquette native Mukkala wasn't heroic before. Indeed, Ben was already a hero through his service in the United States Air Force as a pilot during both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He served well and bravely in our military, definitely lifting him to the rank of hero, like his fellow veterans.
What's made Mr. Mukkala even more heroic in our eyes is the courage he's showing in facing a situation each and every person on the planet will some day, in some way, be called upon to handle: Our own mortality.
As he announced in his column Aug. 8, 83-year-old Ben Mukkala is living his last days on this earth. Just a month earlier, he knew something wasn't right with his health and after medical tests, he was given a cancer diagnosis with two options for care. One was to undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, with the possibility he could be here for another 2 to 5 years. The other was to have palliative care, with 3 to 6 months his remaining lifespan.
Mukkala chose the latter, telling Journal Staff Writer Abbey Hauswirth for a Thursday story: "Life to me is about quality, not quantity. I've lived a good life full of family, friends and love."
Making the choice he did is a very personal matter, but in keeping with what has become his hallmark honest writing style, Ben shared his decision in a matter-of-fact style, not looking for sympathy, but wanting his readers - who through the years have become his friends - to know why his beloved column was ending.
Ben Mukkala was not seeking sympathy but he has received an outpouring of affection from the people who have grown to love and respect him through the years. He and his wife, Dorothy, have been showered with cards, emails and phone calls of support since Ben's farewell column was published.
We, Ben's colleagues at The Mining Journal, would like to add our best wishes to Ben and his family. We hope that the coming weeks bring a chance to spend quality time with children and grandchildren, with neighbors and friends.
We hope Ben feels the good thoughts and many prayers being sent to him from admirers around the planet. We hope the love lifts his spirits as he faces the end with his characteristic class and dignity.
Thanks for sharing your life with us all these years, Ben Mukkala. God be with you on your final journey.