November was a horrendous month for me. My mom died suddenly on Veteran’s Day. 89 years old with Alzheimer’s but otherwise stable health. Expected eventually but a numbing shock all the same. My dad followed three days later, some random point in his long, slow, steady decline. The 3 days between their deaths and my knowledge that neither knew anything about the other’s last days has been eerie and almost mystical. My clergy called it a blessing and a sign that their souls came into the world and left together for reasons best known to our maker and for comfort to me. I accept that as they have led parallel but separate lives these past forty years.
For my mom, her life well lived came full circle. The book with which she taught me to read, White Fang by Jack London, I read over and over again to her these last nine years. Beyond a love of reading, she taught me to love talking and writing and to appreciate the power of just walking around and taking the time to admire all that passed our field of vision. Libraries were important to us. She went to college when she was in her late 60’s and worked for a newspaper startup in her early 70’s. She was strong willed with a loving heart.
My father made folks feel welcome wherever he went. He made friends easily across all walks of life. He was a fixture at United Bikers of Maine’s winter Belt Sander races which went way beyond his love of carpentry and woodworking.
His long standing love of his military service tied to a strong reticence to ever speak of what he did in World War Two made Honor Flight a pivotal player at the end of his life. Honor Flight transformed him. It made his final year more comfortable and more meaningful and the Maine Veterans Home where he resided both amplified and honored that message with their very personal care for each individual within their dominion. Thank you Maine Honor Flight for what you do and for allowing Ray to go out as an honorary Navy Chief.
As we approach the holiday season, we should all take a moment and linger on the small things that too often are taken for granted. Smile, be kind to strangers, play nicely with others. Be slow to anger and fast to forgive. Be present in real life. Know that a caring heart is important and appreciated more than most people acknowledge. The dangers of extreme positions and failure to collaborate or truly listen to others are well known. Old and New media promote it every day.
Better to build community and to support a diverse range of friendships. Leave a legacy as they did – where their memory is a blessing to all who were lucky enough to have known them.
To your good health and the New Year.
Donations to honor their memory can be made here if you are so inclined: