Saturday, October 15, 2011
This week, I had to say goodbye to two great human beings. Both had lived long, productive lives and made everyone they knew better people. I'll miss both of these Men but I'm also extremely fortunate to be a witness to their lives.
George was a scout leader when I was a kid and he taught me not only how to tie knots, pick a camp site and other "scouting" skills, he also showed me that you could influence people in a positive manner by being gentle, caring and always having positive things to say to and about everyone. He and my Dad shared those qualities.
In 1968, George helped organize a canoe trip for our scout troop to the Boundary Waters in Southern Ontario. We had a GREAT time up there on the water for 10 days fishing, swimming and playing explorer/trapper/adventurer. George taught us that if we knew how and were observant, we could actually "live off the land" We knew we could catch and eat fish up there, but George showed us how to make a meal, by finding wild onions and herbs to help flavor the meal. He introduced us wild blueberries and we picked some to make pancakes the next morning. He used the bottom of a canoe as a "kitchen counter top" to prepare foods and then as a table when we were ready to eat. George also showed us how to add the wild herbs (words) and spices (deeds) that would help turn the food of life into the meal of living. He didn't just organize the trip, he gave us all a story book adventure that lives with all of us to this day 43 years later!
Dick was married to my Dad's nurse of about 30 years. Beth and Dad were a real team when it came to dispensing health care in rural Kansas. She passed away from complications of lung cancer just last July. Dick was already undergoing chemo for liver cancer when she was diagnosed and he kind of lost his will to live without her.
Even though he missed his beloved wife (they were high school sweathearts) he kept his humor about him to the end. Dick was a character! If you brought a brown bag meal with you and he was there, you'd better keep an eye on it, cause when you went to eat lunch, all the cookies, candy bars and fruit would be missing! :) He got pulled over by the Kansas Highway Patrol one day for speeding and when the cop told him how fast he was going, he told started laughing and said, "You're wrong, I was going a lot faster than that!" Dick was one of those guys who kept getting older, but never really grew up. He loved not only his wife and family, but also his toys! He was a really good amateur photographer who would volunteer to shoot your wedding if you couldn't afford to hire a pro and he wouldn't charge a penny for it or the prints he made in his darkroom. He had a passion for fixing and restoring toy pedal tractors from the 50s and 60s with his son Jeff. He also collected hats, caps, antique farm equipment, and toy trains. In his 70s, riddled with cancer, he could still play like a kid! :)
If you needed help with just about anything, Dick would show up before you even thought to call him. After he retired from farming, he kept his shop fully stocked with tractor and equipment parts because one of his neighbors or friends might break down on a weekend or after hours and he would help you fix whatever was broken.
These two Men were total opposites in personality, but each was a Man of his word. In this day and age when we all need "signed contracts" (complete with out clauses) to keep each other honest, George and Dick were as good as their word. They didn't need "out clauses", they didn't even need a handshake to seal the deal, their word was solid. They wouldn't "parse" words, they took responsibility for their actions and promises and if there was ever any doubt, they ALWAYS did it the "right" and "ethical" way. They were never purposefully "vague" in what they said or promised like some of our friends, most of our politicians and all our presidents seem to be these days. They were men of their word, devoted to their families and rocks in their communities.
I'll not only miss these two Men, but also the way of life they professed and lived. Neither put himself above anyone else or was a "know it all". I wish every one of you could have known these Men and experienced their examples of how to live life to it's fullest. I never heard either Man raise his voice in anger or have anything disparaging to say about anyone. Each would let you know when you'd screwed up but they had the ability to change your attitude so you would WANT to do things differently next time.
No more will I hear George's dry sense of humor, or Dick's bellowing laugh. George will never ask me again if I've done a good deed for someone today and Dick won’t be brightening my door, beaming about his new camera or lens. Those memories will have to do from now on, but my life would be very different if it weren't for these two MEN. I hope I can live up to their example and I'll consider my life a success if I can have the positive influence on others they had on me.
So today, I not only say goodbye to two friends, but to two Men (yes, Men with a capitol M)
Till next time...