September 21 I stopped for a few minutes in New London, MN, enroute to visit a retired colleague and friend in home hospice a few miles away.
I hadn’t seen Mary in a long while – I’m long retired, and she lives a two hour drive away, off my normal “beaten path”.
But there are times for such visits, and enroute back from a short trip to North Dakota, I decided to drop in. Earlier, I had called Mary to schedule the visit, and was about an hour early.
Sitting in the small park in New London I looked for some photo object to remember my visit with Mary. I fixed on a nearby tree, well into preparation for Fall, and simply took this snapshot:
(click to enlarge)
In my mind I’ve dubbed it “Mary’s Tree”.
Thence on to visit Mary and her sister. We had a most delightful 45 minutes. Earlier I’d sent her a copy of Tuesdays with Morrie, and forever I’ll remember my “Saturday with Mary”!.
Then off again for the cities.
Last week, mid-week, came an unexpected knock at our door.
There was Cliff, a retired barber – one of those one-man shop old-time barbers I prefer – and his wife Val. Cliff and Cathy were part of the high school ‘gang’ years ago. Cliff and Val had stopped by to drop off several of his CDs*.
And brought along some muffins for us.
Cliff is a very spritual guy – always has been – and the two CDS, “How Can I Fail” and “Cry Out”, vocal and guitar by Cliff, and piano by his friend, Mark, reflect his Lutheran Faith, and his personal witness. He and Mark did a fine job.
Did I mention Cliff has inoperable cancer?
He, too, is walking his last miles on earth.
He’s decided to live his life while he can.
It’s not easy: chemo is no walk in the park.
But we had a great visit. Later the same afternoon he called Cathy to say that the medical visit showed cancer in the lead, once again.
Then came yesterday, and a long scheduled brunch at Bernie’s home in northeast Minneapolis.
Bernie is a colleague usher at Basilica of St. Mary, and some weeks ago invited a bunch of us to a brunch for fellow usher Tom who’s retired from his duties, also “walking the walk” with cancer.
The time was delightful.
Those who know me, know me as always with a camera, and at some point, yesterday, Greg asked if I’d get my camera and take some pictures. I like this one, and you can find Tom, and Greg, and me, in there, and the other guests, just friends enjoying a fall afternoon.
(click to enlarge)
As I say, I’m always with my camera, people who know me, know that.
But in none of these three scenarios did I bring the camera into the scene. Why?
I’d asked Mary if I could take some photos for her in ND (she’s a daughter of ND), and she said “no”. Afterward I sent her several, anyway, including of “Mary’s Tree”.
For Cliff, the image of last Wednesday in our living room will have to be a memory in the mind’s eye.
And as for Tom, it was Greg who asked me to bring in the camera yesterday.
We deal with illness and death – our own and others – in our own ways. For all of us, it’s coming somewhere sooner or later, usually unexpected and uninvited, but nonetheless certain.
Mary, Cliff, Tom and so many others are teachers, worth a listen….
As for communication…and taking pictures…I’m suggesting that the risk is one worth taking.
* – re Cliff’s CDs, I’m sure I can get them for you, $10 each. If you want information, e-mail dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.
ON TAKING A RISK
Saturday I had occasion to revisit something I’d seen in the Church Bulletin of Riverside Methodist Church in Park Rapids MN October 17, 1982. It seems to fit this topic:
“To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
To serve God is to risk danger and martyrdom.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing. They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live. Chained by their certitudes they are a slave, they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.”