On a Symbolic Bike

BikerFriend

This is my friend – the one who someone fatally shot from the outside while sitting in his favorite chair inside his house. I post this as a tribute to a wonderful person missed by many.

This picture is from his ride across the country for his 60th birthday. After all, the bicycle is a symbol for him and his life

Bicycle is a symbol for outdoor activity

  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Working outside

Bicycle is a symbol for working with his hands

  • Working on his own bike
  • Daring to fix anything
  • Baking bread
  • Willingness to help those who ask or are in need
  • Work at church on the property maintenance
  • Cooking for Men’s Breakfast group
  • Volunteering on a local bike trail

Bicycle is a symbol of freedom

  • Freedom of outdoor activities
  • Freedom to bicycle across the country
  • Freedom to try something new
  • Fought for freedom as a Marine in Vietnam

Bicycle is a symbol of his personality

  • Smiling as he rode
  • Free spirit of adventure
  • Daredevil to try
  • Outgoing friendliness
  • Ease of talking with strangers

Bicycle is a symbol for what he loved

  • Outdoors
  • Meeting people
  • Country
  • Chocolate
  • Wine
  • Cake
  • Helping people
  • Friends
  • Wife
  • God

Cheers to my friend! After all, he would smile at this.

For a Friend

A year ago, the hearts of many were heavy as we received word of the passing of an outstanding lady that my wife and I were lucky to know and call friend.

We last saw her at handbell practice in early November after returning from a week-long Caribbean cruise. She was fighting chest congestion for a month, thus at the end of rehearsal, my wife and another ringer convinced her to escalate her troubles. Later that week she went to the hospital, received X-rays, was admitted, and never returned home.

Being gracious, funny, and a good one to kid, those that knew her, loved her. No matter what she did, she always gave it her best, and with the ability to laugh at herself … and, much too young to leave the living.

We, and the family, thought she would be home for Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter, but the lung cancer was too aggressive and too advanced. I can’t recall ever crying for so many consecutive days – not for any friends or my grandparents, aunts, uncles, or parents. It was very hard for us in this house, and it also impacted our entire holiday season.

Nonetheless, we grabbed our bootstraps, and focused on her husband because that is something we could do here and now. I’m proud of him as he’s done well, and I’m happy with the little part that I’ve played.

Today is the first anniversary of her passing – thus, why I couldn’t do a cartoon post. She wouldn’t be much for the today’s hub-bub, thus would be fussy with me to post as normal – but that’s ok, she’s not here to stop me … besides, I can use this to  kid her again!

I’ve thought a lot of her this week, and even write this with tears – but it’s something I had to do for a good lady.

A few days after her funeral, I posted this tribute to her, as I share a constant reminder I have of her.  Besides, I know I’m a better person today because of her role of a portion of my life – but my wife and I still miss her.

Her funeral was difficult for the entire handbell choir as she was one of us, besides, her husband asked us to play. I still recall the difficulty of that rehearsal for the entire choir, but also his strength and pride through his smile as we concluded at the funeral.

Today is a good time to share this beautiful version of Beside Still Waters we played with heavy hearts for our friend and handbell colleague.

Meanwhile, “Hey up there – how are the butterflies?” (actually, an inside joke for her that I couldn’t resist)

On a Reunion

Last weekend I traveled to the opposite corner of Ohio to join classmates at a reunion to celebrate our graduation 40 years ago. Since our class has not gathered since our 25th, many thanks to the group who pulled us together in a matter of weeks on a weekend associated with the high school homecoming.

I didn’t make it to the Friday night game, but my wife and I arrived to see people for a parade and considerable socializing. It was great to see many people:

  • Sharon (who was alphabetically next to me in many classes)
  • Jeff (who sank the winning shot in a legendary game, and enjoys DWTS)
  • Eric (my longtime friend with whom I’ve remained in contact)
  • My faithful band of good friends who started in first grade together and remained cohesive through graduation (some who I saw a year ago at the visitation for my father)
  • Kathy and Mary (two wonderful ladies who came into my life when our schools consolidated,
  • Dave (simply a great person that I admire and miss)
  • And others as Jon, Roger, Sherry, Anita, Mick, Peggy, Ron, Rich, Jennifer, Tom, Judy, Brenda, Larry, Kaye, Donna, and whomever I have left out, including those from other classes

Several times during the day, I thought about those I would not see because their life was shorter than mine. From an auto accident within a year after graduation, to mid-life suicide and those who fought cancer, losing 12 out of 187 is not a bad percentage for 40 years.

Nobody mentioned her, but I thought of Effie, my first classmate to die (third grade). I’m not sure if it was leukemia, lupus, or whatever, but I can remember her short black hair and smile – and even attending a party at her house just above the old school.

Of all the life forms in this world, we humans are the most social and the ones who interact with more of the same species than any other organism. I wonder how many people I have met in my life – even if for a short time – the number must be staggering, yet only a fraction of the percent of people on the planet. However, all those interactions shape us in some way. No matter how short or long the relationship, these interactions are part of the dominoes in our life.

I tell my nieces and nephews that the most important decision is life is who you choose to be around. My life has been a blessing, not only for because of my family and hometown classmates, but those that I’ve through work, church, college, travel, and countless life encounters – including today’s electronic world as blogs.

Yes, I wonder why some of the locals did not have the time to greet those of us who came greater distances but I imagine a few had other obligations. Nonetheless, I am glad I went and ever so thankful for all the dominoes in my life – even the small one from who did not make it with us to fourth grade.

Thanks to Brenda for a pic.

On a Dinner Group

GilligansIslandDinnerIn 1999, we were 1 of 4 couples grouped together with the task of getting to know one another by hosting a simple meal in each of our homes. Meeting 4 times over 9 months seemed like a reasonable undertaking in order to expand our church family.

Ten years and 55 dinner-gatherings later, we’re still meeting. Since we initially clicked, we continued to meet and began sharing cooking duties for theme-oriented events. Whether cultural nights as Italian, Japanese, Scandinavian, Greek, or Lebanese; or celebration themes as Mardi Gras, Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or Fourth of July; or food themes as wrapped, stuffed, on a stick, yellow, or homemade pizza; or many others including Gilligan’s Island that introduced the world to Mrs. Skipper – we’ve eaten well, drank many bottles of wine, and developed meaningful friendships.

Within the group we’ve experienced deaths of parents, high school and college graduations, marriages, birth of grandchildren, surgeries, buying & selling of homes, difficult health issues, significant professional changes with 7 of us, and many other personal events. Life events and demands continue to change everyone, yet we still continue to meet – and the next one is at our house with the theme of Julie Child recipes. If we would have only kept the recipes of all our feasts … wow! Nonetheless, bon appetite!

On Losing Friends when Old

At the Olympics, gold is the highest on the podium and the national anthem played during the ceremony. Gold is the material of desired jewelry and whose discovery sparked rushes. Gold is the color for a couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. Golden Years refers to the age of retirement – freedom from work.

My dad is 83, and on Saturday he lost Paul, a long-time friend and probably his best friend. Although their personalities and interests were different, they shared bond that strengthened through retirement.

By living in a small town as well as being in business, many knew Paul. People loved his sense of humor and his positive attitude, both of which were scene in the quick bounce in his step. But now all of us who knew him must rely on his positive memories.

When on the phone with my dad over the past 20 years he always talked about who’s in the hospital, who he visited at a nursing home, or whose funeral or visitation he attended. Being small town business owners, Dad knew many people, but that also means he’s seen many people leave this life. The golden years have got to be tough.

Just a few months ago Dad lost a long-time friend and best friend from his youth in Missouri. I was with them the last time they saw each other, but it was in a care facility due to Alzheimer’s and recognition was only slight. The golden years must be tough.
 
I also think of one of my longtime friends who recently lost both of her parents within 6 weeks! Meanwhile, Paul’s loving wife is left behind to fight her own health issues without children, without nearby family … only small town friends. The golden years can be lonely.

Not being in that age group, I don’t fully understand their daily trials and tribulations. Although I can recall losing a classmate in third grade and many others since, I can’t imagine what it’s really like to watch close friends dwindle away.

Paul was my friend too, thus I’ve spent much time with Paul through the years. I appreciated his positive and humorous spirit that was also caring. He always asked about my in-laws, someone who he met twice. He always talked about staying young, feeling young, staying active, and enjoying life. I was with him on Christmas Day, yet even with his health struggles, his joyous personality was still there.

So to Paul I say two things: thank you and say hi to Mom for us.