Birthday Wishes revisited

My Birthday Wishes friend, Leah, is in need of prayers.

Her father passed away unexpectedly Sunday evening.

I never met her father in person but felt as though I knew him just the same through stories she would tell of him and growing up in a house full of love, fun, good times and challenging times.

May God’s loving touch be with you, Leah, and your mother, Patsy, and siblings: Jessica, Rachel, TC, and Robert as you deal with your loss.

Peace be with you.

Dear John

Last Wednesday evening I such a strong desire to call you but I wasn’t sure if you were still in ICU or had been moved to another room.  Since I am not family, I figured I wouldn’t be able to talk to you on the phone and decided it would be better if Mr. Aitch and I would visit you again in person.

I wanted to tell you how much we appreciated your compassion and concern when our family had challenges.  No matter what.

We really enjoyed the times when you and MT would play Trivial Pursuit at our house until the wee hours of the morning.  You and MT would sleep on our sofa bed.  One morning you even made Eggs Benedict for us.  Things settled down soon after your second child was born. We didn’t see you as often.

Once in a while you would come over to our house for dinner when MT would take your kids to visit with her mother for several days.  One afternoon you helped Mr. Aitch bake a frozen apple pie for dessert after I gave him instructions over the phone.  I never understood how someone with a doctorate degree could mess up something so simple but you did.

Our daughter was selected to submit a recording of her playing the piano to perform at one of the music conferences.   You offered your piano studio and  professional equipment to record a tape for her.

We always had opportunities to talk about kids and life in the evenings on the motorcycle trips.  The teenage years are the hardest to get through for not just the teen but the parents as well.  Remember when we went to Connecticut in 2000?  You pulled your bike on a trailer using Dick’s truck.  It rained the entire time.  You offered to let me ride in the truck with you so I would be more comfortable but I declined.  You loaned me your brand new leather gloves that turned my hands black when they got wet while I rode on the back of Mr. Aitch’s motorcycle.

On the way home we stopped in Hazelton, PA for the night when Mr. Aitch saw a huge bolt of lightning ahead of us.  The skies opened right after we all got checked into the hotel.  Two other motorcyclists stopped at the same hotel and you invited them for pizza.  You ordered two of the largest pizzas I have ever seen.  The two bikers, you, Dick, Mr. Aitch and I sat around eating during that deluge and we still had almost an entire pizza left.  The girl at the night desk appreciated the leftover pizza.

Now don’t get the idea that you’re  perfect because we all know that is not the case. Words to describe you could be bull-headed, perfectionist, stubborn, egotistical.  And yes, a pain in the, um, neck.  But also honest, ethical, compassionate and generous.  I knew you when you were “John” before you became “Doc”.

The past several years have gone by quickly.   It’s hard to believe that the last motorcycle trip was ten years ago. Mr. Aitch would see you more often than I would since he had band practice close to your office. Lately I would only see you for a few minutes after a concert while I was waiting for Mr. Aitch to get his saxophone and music gathered together.  You always had time to talk about your next project.

I remember your yellow Corvette.  That you really liked my potato salad.  Your excitement of becoming a Catholic.  Your open arms and a peck on the cheek every time you saw me.  And that you were going to retire next year after you did Les Miserables.

Yes, John, I so wanted to talk to you last Wednesday night but I hesitated.  And then it was too late.

I hope your final hours were pain-free and restful.

May you find peace, comfort, joy and love in the arms of God.

If you would like to know more about John, you can read his obituary.

Life goes on

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say.  On a blog.  On the phone.  In a letter.  In person.

Beginning with the last two weeks in February things started getting hard.

My sister had to do a very brave thing.  It was time for her adopted greyhound to leave this world.  Being brave is so hard.  What do you say?

Our neighbor, Steve, lost his battle with Alzheimer’s disease.  I took a breakfast care package to his wife and daughters.  Mr. Aitch was an honorary pallbearer.  We hadn’t seen Steve for over a year when he was moved to a nursing home.  What do you say?

Mr. Aitch’s cousin suffered from COPD.  Her suffering ended in February.  What do you say?

A co-worker’s sister.  Also gone.  What do you say?

Last night we learned that a friend Mr. Aitch and I have known since college was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and has four or five months left to live.  He’s teaches at a local college and is in the middle of directing a musical production that opens this week.  This particular production is one that he actually wrote.  And it will be his last.

I want John to know that I value his friendship.  He and his wife used to come to our house and play Trivial Pursuit until the wee hours of the morning.  We went on motorcycle trips together.  I listened to the heartaches that come with parenting teenagers.  I only see John a few times a year now and when we go to the musical performance this weekend, I’ll probably see him again. 

What do I say?