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Posts Tagged ‘death’

I think I have written about my high school years quite a few times. For those that have missed those way past posts, here’s another.

I, like many of us, belong to a Facebook group for people that graduated from my high school in the 1970s. Yeah, I’m an old lady! I joined it about five years ago when it was set up for the purpose of getting together for a multi-year reunion, which finally happened about three years after the group was set up. Well, on Saturday evening, someone posted about the death of one of our former teachers. We had amazing teachers. With very few exceptions, our teachers were not only very well qualified and more than capable. They were excellent teachers and most of them chose to stay in our district and at our school when they had the opportunity to move to affluent areas with fancy new schools. They felt a duty to our population and we, the students, were the beneficiaries of that duty.

This time it was Sal Orlando who was an English teacher. He taught Senior English and, for many years, also taught Journalism. I was not lucky enough to have him as a teachere and I was actually disappointed about that. My siblings had told many stories about the amazing Mr. Orlando. He threw things at people that fell asleep, things like chalk board erasers and chalk. He had a reputation for being really tough on his students but also keeping things light with his jokes and sarcasm. Kids knew he really cared about them as people and as students. I didn’t take Senior English because I had taken four years of Journalism which actually gave me way more English than was required for graduation as each year counted as a year of English plus the three years of English I did take! And he would have been my Journalism teacher except that the year that I first began Journalism as a freshman, we had a new teacher who was also the newspaper advisor for the three years I was on the paper staff. So I didn’t have the privilege of having Sal Orlando as a teacher but we did have many exchanges out of the classroom, most of them teasing each other about why I wasn’t his student or he my teacher.

He was just one of the many revered teachers at that school. I’ve written about Mr. Henry and Mr. Flanagan, and Ms. Paszkeicz. I’ve written about Rudy Del Rio (who was my Journalism teacher and newspaper advisor) and about Mr. McCready.  I’ve written about Mr. Keneally and Mr. Matalone. Those are just a few of the many teachers who were giants to us; legends in their own time. And losing them is a real loss for most of us as many of us are still in touch with at least a few of these teachers. It’s also a reminder that we, their students, are getting old and are at that age where we see the names of so many of our teachers and our fellow students among the dead. Last month it was the death of Mr. Matalon. Today it was Mr. Orlando. I don’t want to know who will be on that list of fallen tomorrow.

I was fortunate to have such amazing teachers. I wish all teachers were like them and that everyone could have that experience.  Everyone should get to know their teachers like I knew mine and everyone should have that feeling that their teachers care about them as students and as people.

They were giants. They were legends.

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Lamar

This is not the post I was going to write today but I feel compelled to write it anyway.

Lamar was my brother-in-law. I first met him around 1980, which was about two years after I married. Lamar and Sylvia (she’s my sister-in-law) began dating long distance. She lived in Los Angeles and he lived in Berkeley. They were both in graduate programs, she at UCLA and he at UC Berkeley. Eventually, he finished his program and moved to Los Angeles where he became not only a part of Sylvia’s life but a part of all of our lives, including mine and eventually, my kids.

Lamar was from Maryland, if I remember correctly. He was raised with southern ideals and manners and thinking. Lamar, before any of us knew him, was in the Peace Corps and often spoke of the things he learned and the things he did in Africa as part of his stint with the Peace Corps. After that, he went back to school and studied architecture, finally becoming an architect which was a major feat as the road to becoming an architect is a long one, but he stuck with it and did it.

He had a lot of nicknames in the family, mostly because my ex-husband’s family is into giving people silly, and often mean nicknames. For example, when his arm was in a sling because of a shoulder injury, he became Lame Arm instead of Lamar. Ha ha. But the one that stuck the most was Space Case because he would often “zone out” during conversations. We would all be discussing something and one of us would turn to ask him a question or get input from him and he was “gone” to the point where we would have to call his name several times, usually ending with “Earth to Lamar. Come in Lamar.”

He was inventive, curious, handy, a problem solver, laid back, and supportive. As spouses of a brother and sister in that family, we often were the outsiders so Lamar and I stuck together. And, more than once, we also discreetly exchanged eye rolls when “they” were being “too Martinez.” He was my pal when we were all together. Later in life, we were both diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes) and so we had that in common and shared some tips and experiences that non-diabetics would not be able to understand.

Many years later came my divorce and their move across the county so we saw each other less often. I visited with them in D.C. twice and they were at my daughter’s college graduation in Baltimore so our contact was limited but when we saw each other we slipped into the same “us” and “them” routine.

Then came word that he had cancer and was starting chemo. That was in late July. Then three weeks ago came word that the chemo was not working and that the doctors had told them there was nothing else they could do. There were no other treatments for his type of cancer. A few days ago came word that his death was imminent, he had just a few days left. This morning, word came that he had passed. The only positive thing to hold on to is that he was medicated and was never in any pain. He was comfortable. He could understand everything but could not speak. And his death was peaceful.

I’m shaking. That part of the family is too far for me to get to. I wish I could be there with them to support each other and to share some favorite Lamar moments but it’s not possible. So here I am, sharing Lamar with you; sharing my pain. And it hits a bit harder because he was diagnosed the same week that my doctor told me I had cancer and had only three to five months. Of course, he was wrong as it turned out and I do not have cancer. But Lamar did. And I keep thinking that it could be me. I’m glad it isn’t but I also feel a little bit guilty.

I will miss Lamar greatly.

 

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What do you do when someone dies and they are in you address book or contacts or Facebook feed?

I struggle with this all the time. I still won’t get rid of the address book that I used over thirty years ago when my brother died. His name and address and phone are in there and I can’t bring myself to get rid of it even though none of the addresses are any good.

And then there’s Facebook where my other brother’s name  pops up. And where my friend Lydia’s (who died in January) name, picture and comments keeps popping up in my Memories Feed.

When I was updating my old phone yesterday (my most recent phone died so I am resurrecting my previous phone) I came across phone numbers for my one of my brothers who died awhile back. And some of my friends who are no longer with us, Lydia, Sally, Dan, Jody, and some others. I couldn’t bring myself to delete them from my phone.

Of course, this means that I will keep seeing their names and pictures. Yes, I get sad when I see them and they aren’t here anymore. Sometimes I can’t keep myself from tearing up. I know that I should think of good times with them but that’s tough. I eventually do but the tears still come.

What do you do?

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46 Years

I was sitting in my eighth grade English class, first row, third seat back. The intercom rang and Mr. Grayson picked it up with his usual cheery voice. It was a very short conversation and when he ended the call, his eyes were wet. As he walked to the front of the room, he took out his handkerchief, took his wire rim glasses off, wiped away the tears, blew his nose and tried to go on with class. He struggled for the next ten minutes, losing his place in the lesson, mid-sentence. Finally, he gave up and told us he was giving us the rest of the period for free time and asked us to keep quiet and to ourselves. We asked what was wrong. He told us that the call had been bad news. A former student who was now a sophomore at the high school across the street had collapsed in gym class and had died. The student had been a favorite of his, that’s why the Office staff had called him.

This was really scary to me. Tenth grade. Two years older than me. My sister was at that high school across the street. Could something happen to her? Why had the boy died? It didn’t make sense. I tried to read my book but I couldn’t concentrate.

Today, forty-six years later, his sister posted on Facebook and talked about how much she missed her brother and how she regretted not knowing him in his adult years. His sister is now my friend. I became friends with her when I got to the high school later the same year that her brother died.

He wasn’t my brother but I have thought of him often and of his death, which was later discovered to have been caused by an aortic aneurysm. I think that’s what it’s called. I’ve often wondered how that could have gone undetected during his annual physical for the athletic program (he was a basketball player for the high school). It did happen and it impacted so many people, not just his family. I’m sure we all thought about him often over the years.

Forty-six years.

 

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Abuela

Some of you may remember reading my post on the 10th, called The Fathers. Well, just a couple of hours ago we got word that the grandmother in that family passed in her sleep.

We’re packed. We’re heading for southern California. We could not stay home. We probably won’t be there for the services but my daughter and I both feel that we have to be there to spend even a few hours with the family. Two day drive in each direction but we don’t feel right not being there even just for support.

Probably the next time you hear from me it will be from Yreka, California if we can make it that far tonight and get through the snow that is expected on the summit tonight. Wish us luck. Keep us in your thoughts.

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It is August, 2004 and money three kids and I are in Maui with another family. They go often because the dad works for a major airline so they get to travel for free. We used to go often when I was married but haven’t been back to Maui in years. With the group of us, it should be a lot of fun because there are so many of us. Besides my three and myself, there are the mom and dad from the other family, three sons, one of the grandmas, an elderly family friend, an uncle and two of their family friends. The uncle and the two family friends are all Catholic priests. Two, Alex and Gabe grew up together in the same neighborhood so they’ve known each other all their lives. The third friend, Father Joe, they met at the seminary so they’ve known each other for at least thirty years. The group gets along very well. There are not only parents and grandparents along, but the Fathers are all like uncles. We got to meet and know the Fathers because my two girls were dating the two sons from that family. We did everything together and saw each other three or so times each week so it was a natural to go with them on vacation.

Sunsets, meals, drives through the island, a birthday dinner for my youngest, and a trip to watch the sun rise over Haleakala volcano. We did all of this with them. When we flew back to the mainland, we went our separate ways because we had moved to northern California while they remained in southern California. We were still in touch and when I drove my daughter to see her father in southern California, we would see the other family, too. That was August.

In November, Father Alex was elevated to Bishop. We were invited to the ceremony which was beautiful and inspiring. It was held at the Cathedral Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles with hundreds of clergy in attendance. We sat in the seats reserved for family. We stayed for the private dinner and the reception and then later moved on to a family party. It was an amazing feeling of camaraderie and family and faith and inspiration. Everything rolled into one.

We’ve all been a big extended family, even after our kids were no longer seeing each other. We’ve attended funerals together, graduations, baptisms, confirmations, birthday celebrations, and just plain ordinary dinner.

The group is getting smaller. Father Joe died on July 1 of 2006 when he suffered a stroke on his way to dialysis. It was a very great loss.

And yesterday, Father Gabe died. No word yet as to the specifics. He wasn’t ill. He just didn’t wake up yesterday morning.

So, today I am sad. The world is a little less bright without Father Gabe.

This wasn’t what I had planned to write for today but today is not a day I had planned for. Some things are more important than NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo. Some days are just for curling up in bed with my thoughts and my memories.                                                                                                    candle1R

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It was a beautiful spring day in 2009. My daughter, her boyfriend, and I had driven out to the coast for the first time since we had moved to Oregon a year before. We had spent a few hours at the casino and we were on our way home talking about going back to the coast again. My cell phone rang and I saw it was my older sister, Sylvia.

“Are you home?”
“No. We’re on the way home from the coast and we were just talking about how you would like it there if you came to visit.”
“Are you driving or is Tina driving?”
“Tina is.”
“Okay. I just called to tell you…I’m sorry I have to tell you…Carlos just killed himself.”

Again. Another brother. I was speechless. She had to hang up because the police were there and she had to talk to them. She asked me to call my younger sister and let her know. I did. The rest of the day is a blur. My daughter took care of everything and before I knew it, we were on a our way to the airport for a 6 am flight to southern California. We muddled through the week that followed. My daughter and I came home to Oregon. The next few months were filled with grief and memorial services in both southern and northern California and then spreading his ashes.

It was difficult for me to go back to see my mother because my brother had been staying at my mother’s house before he died. When I was finally able to return to my mother’s house, everything was fine; quiet; normal. One day, I was in my sister’s bedroom reading. My mom was in her bedroom and my sister in the kitchen. My nephew was in the dining room on the computer. He is autistic and is nonverbal and spends all his time in front of the computer watching videos. There was no one else in the house. All of the sudden, the bedroom door swung open, there was what I can only call a “whoosh” and then all was still. A minute later, I heard a male voice just above a whisper. It said “What’s goin’ on?” I looked all around. No one was there but I had recognized the voice. It was my brother, Carlos. I sensed him in the room for another minute or so then he was gone.

I wasn’t scared. I knew he wasn’t there to hurt me.

I told my sister later that night. She said she had felt him there before and our mother had often felt him and heard him until one day when she spoke to him telling him to leave because he didn’t belong in this world. After that, my mom hasn’t felt his presence anymore. I felt it and heard him. No fear. No threat. Just a sense of peace. He was there with me for that short two or three minutes.

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