Tag Archives: death

A Final Parting

Word came to me through a grapevine late last week: a woman I met 30 years ago and dated for not quite three years passed away last November. I’m not quite sure how to feel, or what to feel.

I’ve shared rooms with a lot of people over the years, men and woman. The commonality? Once they walk out the door they never return, not to knock, not to crack the door to even sneak a peek.

This woman was no different. The relationship ended badly for me. She was eight years my senior, a user and a manipulator. But that’s what I was back then: a rescuer. Show her enough love and she would come to reciprocate.

I never got closure after the breakup. For me, from what I wrongly believed was love to hate to compromise, the getting over took a long time. The anger is gone. I forgave her long ago, and myself, too, for the role I played in staying far too long in a toxic relationship. I certainly have no fond feelings for her, having dated several other women since she and I split, and marrying the best of them. I now know it was never love between us. The lesson she taught me was not about what I wanted, but about what I didn’t want.

So why do I feel so unsettled?

Maybe there are a whole heap of whys.

I confess: there were times over the years I thought of her, wondered if she ever met that 747 captain she always dreamed of marrying (she was a gate agent for a major airline). She was looking for someone to take care of her, enable her to quit her stressful job. Maybe I wanted to know if she’d met him, although she was then, after we broke up, over forty. Too old, I thought then in my anger. Anyone with a six-figure job flying 747s can have their pick of flight attendants—younger and more beautiful. Why settle for an over forty Italian even if she is well-preserved, eats well, exercises often, keeps her figure? But I never told her that. In time, after I let go the anger, I wished her well, hoped she found what she sought. That’s the kind of man I am: I don’t wish ill on anyone.

Maybe I still wanted that closure I never got. While she was still, in my mind, alive and kicking, like the alcoholic going through the steps of recovery, she might yet get in touch to apologize for the pain she caused me. Not like I fell off the planet. Now she never will.

She had ample time to make her peace, if she’d wanted to. She didn’t want to. And I’m fairly certain she never gave me a thought in the twenty-seven years after she broke up with me.

Today I’m ashamed to admit I considered, after my first book was published twenty years ago, sending her a copy of it, wondering if she might recognize herself in the antagonist. Nah, she was too self-absorbed. Or maybe she’d matured, grown wiser. I’ll never know.

Maybe it’s just a microcosm of life, that she was mortal, that I’m mortal. Losing my parents drove that point home twenty years ago. Hell, I already know I’m mortal. Six years ago I wondered if that Mazda I bought might be my last car. Now I’m wondering if the car I might purchase in the next year or two or three might be the last one.

Learning a couple years ago about the passing of my first boss—he was not yet even sixty—hit me hard, in part because another part of my life, a part from my long ago youth, was gone forever.

But she’d been gone, after the not quite three years we dated, for nearly twenty-eight years. Might as well have been the forever of nearly half my life.

More maybes? Maybe. Maybe the right maybe just hasn’t yet occurred to me.

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A Life In Retrospect

“Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? If so I can’t imagine why. We’ve all got time enough… to cry.” —Robert Lamm


Wise words written nearly fifty years ago by a man in his long ago youth.

Yet in preparing for death, and in preparing for the loss of a loved one, there is never enough time.

Funerals are strange affairs. People attend them for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most popular reason is to pay one’s respects. Unlike Rodney Dangerfield, who never got any respect, apparently some people feel the dearly departed is deserving of a whole heap of it. I’m not sure what that means, paying ones’ respects. Did they pay them respect while they were alive, when it truly mattered? That, to me, is one of life’s great mysteries: why we withhold telling those who mean the most to us what they mean to us until it’s too late. Maybe we assume they know. That’s a travesty.

Others attend funerals in support of the family left behind, and that’s a fine sentiment. When someone loses a family member it provides much comfort to know that others share your grief.

And speaking of grief, yes, funerals are in large part about grief, the sharing of it. A burden is more easily carried by a multitude than by an individual. But more important than grief, funerals are—or should be—about a celebration of a life shared.

A man’s life should never amount to a few hundred words spoken after he’s gone. If a man’s life is measured by what he left behind, then John’s life is a fortune of the greatest value. He left behind two fine children who in turn became fine parents, giving to their daddy a chance to be a fine granddaddy. What greater gift could they give in return?

He also left behind a wife who adores him. He was the true definition of a biblical husband. He cherished you, Joan, and took care of you. In fact, he took care of you so well you had to call your son a few weeks ago, after John was admitted to the hospital for the last time, because you had no idea how to turn on the air conditioner.

By the number of people here today, I know he touched the lives of many others as well, mine included.

John was a simple man who enjoyed the simple things in life. Polish beer, watching a Wings game, time spent with family. A good card game. Especially a good card game. He enjoyed laughing, and enjoyed even more making people laugh. He took at least as much pleasure in giving a gift as the recipient received in its receipt.

John got it: life’s meaning. That he was here to give and not to receive. John received in the giving. He understood it’s not what you gather throughout a lifetime, but what you scatter that make up a memorable biography.

It’s okay to grieve loss, to shed a tear or three; but that’s not what John would want. He would want us to remember him the way he was in life, the way he lived his life. He would want us to remember that boyish grin, that mischievous glint in his eyes, his laughter. So grieve, and weep if we must for a man taken too soon. But he’d be taken too soon had he lived another twenty years. But smile, too. That should be our everlasting gift to him in return for all he gave us.

Yes, we lost one of the good ones. One of a kind, sui generis. And so today we mourn our lost John. But lost isn’t the right word. Lost is what happens to pennies when you can’t find them, or a sock. And then you do, between the cushions of the sofa or in the dryer. Nothing is ever really lost. You just need to find it.

But take joy in that there surely must be much dancing on the other side of the Great Divide over John’s arrival. Indeed, in addition to his heart of gold, Heaven has received:

  • a mischief maker
  • a rascal
  • a rogue
  • a scalawag
  • and one of one the luckiest card players I’ve ever met.

Yes, John, our debate is over: you have to be lucky in order to be good. God, I suspect, has met His match at the euchre table.

Long life to you, John. The Red Solo Cup that contained your essence may have broken, but who you were in life, who you are, lives on. Just as you live on in the memories of your children and grandchildren, your Joan, and all who already miss you. We are all better for knowing you.

Thanks, John, for all the cherished memories. Keep a seat open at the euchre table for me, will you?

God keep you.

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