Monday, October 8, 2012

Everybody Embrace The Day!

Day 58 - Oct. 8, 2012

Today I don't know how many pounds of rolling thunder I am, and moreover, I don't care.

All I know is that it's going to be a wonderful day to run. The autumn sun is bright; the sky is blue and we have wonderful friends and family surrounding us.

Yesterday my 80-something neighbor pushed her walker over to our house with a giant book filled with pictures. For years, she and her husband had photographed neighborhood kids who trick-or-treated at their house.

But I could tell this was more than a show-and-tell visit. She needed a hug. It was the one-year anniversary of her husband's death, and we all dearly miss him. There isn't a week that goes by that I don't look over my shoulder thinking Bill is creeping up for one of our chats. We solved many of the world's problems right out there on the spit of grass between our houses.

Bill was a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. There are literally hundreds of Boy Scouts who owe their Eagle Scout ranks to him and the guidance he gave them.

I wrote this remembrance shortly after Bill's death. I haven't shared it with many people, but maybe today is that day:

The golden rays of sunlight painted water color images across the turning leaves of an autumn sunset as we headed to the hospice.

The warm glow of the sunlight belied the fact that soon the chill of evening would chase away the heat of the Indian summer afternoon and it would be autumn again.

The sad part was that Bill was dying. Regardless of all we humans might do to make these final few days linger like the final days of fall, Bill was living his last hours on Earth, and we were sad to see our dear friend leave us behind.

Not many weeks ago, my 80-year-old neighbor fell to the ground as he worked on his great granddaughter's doll house in his garage. The entire neighborhood watched in horror as the ambulance attendants worked for what seemed like hours but what in reality were only minutes on Mr. B.

The Brinkerhoffs were our neighborhood. For 40 years they had lived in their house. Raised two daughters. Raised two grandchildren. Raised countless neighborhood kids. And now they were setting sail with rearing a great granddaughter.

In recent years, Bill's memory had been slipping. Just little things, but enough that family and close friends could see the change. He was the rock that held the neighborhood together, but now he was starting to show cracks around the edges.

Bill had been an adventurer all his life. A Boy Scout leader who shepherded many a young man through the ranks to become Eagle Scouts. A traveler who knew no bounds.

When Bill came back from the hospital, we all thought he would get that gleam in his eye again and return to being his normal self. Nothing seemed to do more than slow him a bit. He was the go-to neighbor. He and his wife were the ones who delivered chicken strips to our children as we unpacked the boxes on the first day in our new house.

Bill and I had solved the world's ills many times over as we stood on the lawn with mowers in park.

But this time the cancer was in his brain. The hope doctors had at first for treatment were quickly dashed when it was determined that his tumor was inoperable.

So Bill and the family chose hospice care rather than following a path of aggressive treatment that might possibly make him sicker than the illness itself.

Bill and his family spent hours together listening to music, telling stories and looking at the pictures that he had taken over the years. The family closed ranks and gave Bill the kind of sendoff he preferred.

This Friday night felt different as we drove Mrs. B toward the hospice. The workers there had learned that Bill was a scout leader and gave him the option of rolling his bed outside and camping for his final days of life. It was a spectacular gift that they gave to a proud man.

The moon was full that night and it didn't take long for the chill to set in. We said our goodbyes about 10 o’clock and took Mrs. B to her house for the night.

At 11 p.m., the call came from Mr. B's daughter -- he was gone. He had slipped away while his daughter catnapped nearby.

Quickly I took Mrs. B to the hospice, and we sat in the moonlight, I holding her hand and Phyllis holding on to Mr. B for one last time. Her boyfriend of so many years had died in his sleep. At last his body was fighting no more, and he was at peace.

This was the kind of night Bill would have loved. Crisp and dry. Just right for camping out.

... So my fellow runners, embrace the day. Embrace your family. Embrace your life.

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