Sunday, March 7, 2010
Bright spirit not even death can dim
How do you assess a death?
Well, the life, actually, of someone for whom you cared?
Perhaps since I received the news only 10 minutes ago, it’s unfair to make that assessment now, with such little time and preparation. It has been on my mind as this crusty older neighbor with a heart of gold has struggled with strokes, depression, loss of independence, a fall, postponed hip surgery, the surgery, another bout of pneumonia. His heart just gave out. That’s what I understand at this point.
He’d been my neighbor about a dozen years, but I really grew to know and love him when, without hesitation, he and his wife helped me plan and execute a neighborhood conversation on race after the 2001 riots. I headed the group for several years, but had to leave for health and child-rearing reasons. He ably took it over and kept it together. He was a quiet, cantankerous, behind-the-scenes mover and shaker from day one, active as long as he could be and the reason the group still exists.
He was a well-loved educator and scout leader, raised a family that extended well behind his biological children, partnered with an equal wife, could tell an awesome story at the drop of a hat, loved history, teaching and people.
A year ago, I had an interesting conversation with him. I happened to call for his wife, who wasn’t home. Luckily for me, we chatted quite a while. It was about this same time of year and he really felt dark and gloomy. He said he had regretted that he had not made more male friends at a younger age. That women get it right, surrounding themselves with friends and long-term associations. His wife had regular lunches, a semi-annual retreat, local book club and a plethora of healthy relationships so vital in any stage of life but, according to him, especially in this later stage.
A bright spirit that can’t be dimmed by illness or even death. Memory and love ensure that.
• What lessons have I learned from others not here anymore?
• Did I appreciate them in the present or with regret, later?
• How can I change that next time?
• What lesson do I want my life to impart?
A scraggy beard,
gruff voice and manner,
hiding the huge,
that listened to God
and insisted on helping
no matter what
body and soul,
but not after
a lifetime of
service and love
beneath a smile