Thursday, January 07, 2016

bang the drum slowly

Barco has forced me to face my mortality.

Puppies do that.  And I am not talking about the high odds of dogs dying during their puppy years.  I am talking about my mortality.

Barco is at the stage where he can easily outrun me.  And, of course, all of his obedience training disappears while he runs circles around me.  Literally.  It is fun to watch, but it makes me realize this dog could easily outlive me.

I thought of that today as I sat down to write about three recent deaths of friends -- all three who have had an impact on my life.  If you have read these pages for very long, you have already been introduced to two of them.

Joan Shinnick you should know (the monkey on my back; putting my best foot forward).  When I first met her in 1972, she was the wife of my first commander in the Air Force.  We became fast friends.  I was stationed at Castle Air Force Base for only a year, but, after I left, we kept up regular correspondence until she entered a rest home -- forgetting a lot of the things that made her who she was.

I doubt I can improve on my summary of her in an earlier post: "Joan was one of those personalities that come into our lives and forever change how we look at the world.  She was an incredible writer.  Witty.  Precise.  With a jeweler's eye for cant.  I think I once called her a cross between Mame Dennis and Erma Bombeck."

Joan always reminded me of Elaine Stritch with her wit and acerbic humor.  Her nickname "Stretch" (because of her height) may have facilitated that comparison.

She encouraged me to keep up my writing.  Whenever I think of abandoning this blog project, I recall her words prodding me along -- words that always helped me to find the purpose in what I was writing.

When her son Blake informed me that she had died, he passed on another bit of encouragement: "I asked her last week if she remembered you and she lit up and said she definitely did."

Without Joan's inspiration, I am not certain I would have ever launched Mexpatriate and its predecessor.

Earlier this week, my friend Todd McIntosh announced his wife Shannon Casey had died.  You met her on my pages in finding my faith, where I discussed the possibility that our caring actions toward others are some of the most effective prayers.

I met Todd and Shannon years before I moved to Mexico.  They lived in a housing area outside of Pátzcuaro where I was seriously considering buying a house.  Discovering their blog was like getting insider information about my potential neighbors.

The adventures of Larry the Rabbit and an ever-changing cast of cats convinced me that I needed to get to know this couple.  And I did.  Whenever I was in Pátzcuaro (or later in San Miguel de Allende when they moved there), I would arrange either lunch or dinner with them.

Maybe it was the fact that we talked about our own lives so much in our essays, but it always felt as if I had known both of them for most of my life.  They were both erudite, fun-loving, and willing to discuss controversial matters in an amicable manner.  That type of civility is a rare commodity these days.

Our dining options were often limited because Shannon used a walker.  While attempting to save a  hummingbird in her home, she fell from a very high ladder severely injuring her leg.  Multiple surgeries and treatments marginally improved her condition.  But she was stuck with the walker.

And then the really bad news came.  Cancer.  The prayer essay I mentioned earlier centered on her struggle -- a struggle she bore with an amazing smile.  Just more proof of her innate civility.

But that battle came to an end this week.  I will truly miss her and her writing.  She taught me that even what we must endure can be endured with grace.

What will influence me most about Shannon's life is her sense of giving.  She did her best to save the life of one of God's smallest creatures, and spent the remainder of her life physically limited.

It is to that sense of giving I now appeal.  In his announcement of Shannon's death, Todd wrote: 

Shannon has asked that there be no service or memorial.  No flowers.  If you want to do something you can contribute to the Cash for Chemo fund to help pay down the bills we will have backlogged over the last 6 years since her accident.  I didn't want to ask for help, but Shannon made me Promise!  It has been a rough few years.
If you choose to donate, you can find the link at:

Last night I sat down to write about Joan and Shannon.  But I simply could not get started.  I think I now know why.

This morning, I received an email that a grade school friend of mine, Keith May, had just died of a heart attack.  A heart attack!  The suddenness caught me completely off guard.

I knew Keith since he moved to the Milwaukie area.  He is undoubtedly the primary reason for my infatuation with politics.

One day in the sixth grade, our teacher, Miss Dix, asked for nominations for class officers.  Keith immediately shot up his hand and offered up my name.  Up until then, I am not certain I knew him very well.

He became my campaign manager.  I bought a box of lic-ris-ets for each of my classmates with a handwritten note tucked inside asking for a vote -- for me.  I was an early believer in the power of buying votes and disguising it as influencing the voting public.

We became fast friends with bike trips to the river and expeditions into the woods.  I saw him less frequently after I headed off for other adventures with the Air Force.  When I returned, we would get together occasionally for dinner to catch up on our lives.

His experiences often reminded me of the warm-up act for the Book of Job.  But he kept on plowing through life.  I remember our last lunch in Canby, he told me that he was certain everything was going to work out.

I hope it did.  I am just sorry that I will never again be able to enjoy his optimism -- and to remind him that politics was not my best life choice.

Three lives.  Each one has added a layer to my life.  But that is what relationships are about.  Spreading a new patina on our very souls.  When lives end, they go on in our own.

Joan.  Shannon.  Keith.  I am going to miss all three of you.


No comments: