Mid-Spring and Memories

May 11th, 2017

We’re in mid-spring right now, the school year is winding down, the spring flowers are giving way to early summer blooms, the heat is rising and the summer schedule is about to begin.

Baseball here at A&M is coming to its last games of the season. Its been a good season overall, lots of freshmen players showing real promise for next year and I’ll miss the games, sitting with the one who holds my heart while trying to think of interesting things one might associate with the players names and guessing the pitch sequences to share with the fellows who regularly sit nearby.

Mothers day is kind of the beginning of summer for me. The one who holds my heart and I will pack up our little dog, maybe a new waffle iron, and some things and head south for the weekend. There will be cooking, and baby-care, and evenings outside with the fire, we’ll look back and look forward, remembering people, wishing a few wishes and looking for satellites amongst the stars.

The start of the summer schedule is always a bit tricky for me, the to-do list at home seems to grow longer each year, mostly because I haven’t finished all the projects! I still have some painting to do, some roofing to do, some decking to do, a little electrical, some flooring, and need to find a carpenter for the railing and an a/c company to replace the downstairs unit. So there’s all that.

We have a bit of moving around to do as part of our summer schedule, a drive through the beauty of west texas to visit the one who holds my heart’s parents, the rest under the big sky of New Mexico now, a place of brilliant blues and tall clouds. I enjoy that drive, its time away from the daily schedule where the one who holds my heart and I can be together. This year, on the way home from there, we will stop by and visit the family reunion, a lively group anchored by the patriarch John, and animated by … pretty much everybody else! It should be fun, especially after seeing VG and Beverly, the stories we hear are always interesting, bits of family history emerge that helps form a larger picture.

We’ll fly east shortly after to see my favorite daughters, favorite eastern son-in-law, and our favorite granddaughter! I look forward to learning her personality, seeing her teeth! and will be interested to see if she remembers me from her early days sleeping on my shoulder. We’ll visit Jim’s family I hope, see how they’re doing, we all were knocked back by his early passing and miss his wit and wisdom.

I think the rest of June kind of quiets down, maybe we’ll have some good porch sitting weather, maybe a few more fireflies, (each one a spirit) and get a little time with our favorite grandson too! Yes, i’ll get after the to-do list as well, and try to squeeze in a little writing time on the parklets paper, make some models of the Freedmen’s church, and look for calls for abstracts for next years publications.

But before all that, we celebrate graduation. Meet parents and spouses of the students, help with the ceremony, and wish them well, hoping they’ll succeed, hoping they stay in touch, hoping we helped them build a firm foundation for a long career. By my rough count this will be my 41st graduating group! If there are about 20 in each graduating class, that means I am partly responsible for 800 or so professionals out there…Thats why I hope we helped their foundation well. So many.

Facebook helps me keep up with some, others I remember when I show their work to current students. Its interesting how the artifacts of someones study can inspire another student 10, 20 or 30 years later. I showed a thesis book from VT yesterday, it was Tim’s, he had designed 3 small houses to study the differences and similarities of three kinds of sites. The student was amazed to see this work, artfully presented, each page frameable, then I unpacked Sean W. thesis. He had a flip book as part of his boxed set of documents, along with a cd that contained his walk through animations. The student looked respectfully at the work, but held the flip book and began flipping the pages to see the walkthrough animation, very clever, but then, wait theres more! flipping the pages the opposite direction showed a shading study. I watched the student flipping the pages one direction, then the other, “this just makes me happy” they said. Good work Sean!

Things from the past can be difficult sometimes, sometimes we become so focused on the challenges of each day we forget to look back, and more important, forget to value the past. Sean’s book opened up a students eyes decades later, The one who holds my heart looked back at the spring night a few days ago and remembered the joys (and scary toads and spiders) of growing up in Trinidad. You never know what someone will remember. Its hard to think about that as we go about our daily schedules, busy here, busy there, but someone, we don’t know who, will remember us, on that day, or in that place.

We all matter.

We all need each other to matter.

Mattering is memory. Hard as it might be, say out loud the memories that matter, share them around a fire or in the dark, say the names of those who mattered to you, it will help us all.

Be good to each other, look after each other, remember each other!

Sunrise and the liturgical axis (memory and holiday)

April 16th, 2017

Memory and Holiday,

This Easter morning, the one who holds my heart are up before the sun, the oven is warm, and the smell of a coffee cake mixes with coffee, and the house is quiet. We’re up to see T&M off as the make the drive to family in Houston, and somewhere along the drive, the sun will rise.

I remember reading that as the sun rises, Easter morning, that the master mason would align an iron rod with a looped rod (the bishops staff) at the moment the sun would be fully visible above the horizon. The line between the two rods established the central axis of the chapel/cathedral/church, and once established, the life of the building could begin.

I think memory is like that, a central axis in our lives. An invisible thing that holds all our bits and pieces together.

This morning I read a memory, written by a friend and colleague, about this date ten years ago. It had started out before sunrise for me that day as well, riding the shuttle to the little airport in Roanoke, Virginia. I must have seen the sun rise, between rolling mountaintops, but I don’t have a memory of that. My first memory of that day is watching a monitor while standing in line at the counter to check in. I was supposed to present a paper at a conference in Portland. The news was reporting a murder in a dormitory on campus that morning, and it gave me a bad feeling. The feeling grew as the line moved and when it was my turn to check in with the agent I remember saying that I needed to cancel my ticket, something I’d never done before, or since.

I got back on the mid morning shuttle and rode back towards campus. I remember a long line of state police cars passing us at high speed as we got off the interstate. The shuttle driver let me off downtown and I first heard the magnitude of the disaster. My class was in lockdown in the auditorium across from Norris Hall, my friend Sam had agreed to lecture on steel while I was at the conference.

The police had locked down campus and wouldn’t let me get to the auditorium, all I could do was exchange emails with my students. They were safe. I felt bad for not being with them that day, sometimes you try and fail, this was one of those times. For the students and faculty we lost that day, we hold on to the memory, its one of those knots on the axis of my life.

Spring traditionally is a time of rebirth after a long winter. Its a season of losses for my family, Tyler, Mom, and the VT tragedy temper the joy of annual rebirth. But I have more memories of Easter, happy ones watching my favorite oldest daughter collect eggs in the Fargo backyard, having eggs roll from her basket and crunch on the patio each time she bent to pick up a new egg, my favorite youngest daughter, her face blue from candy egg colors wearing a yellow sweater knit by mom, hunting (racing?) to all moms usual egg hiding places around the house (was there a secret map?) and finding candy eggs that hadn’t been discovered during the summer birthday gift hunts she would orchestrate.

I’m wishing my daughters and granddaughter a happy easter this morning from afar, we were able to have our Texas family together last night for a meal, (we used an inherited rolling pin to make a family signature dish last night) they’ll head out to see their families around town and state today, and i think the one who holds my heart and i will share a fire and a glass of wine as the sun sets today, sharing memories, making plans, and feeling the presence of Beverly, Voris, Jack and Lorraine.

I’m hoping you all have a good memory to add to the axis of your life today. Remember those friends and family who can’t be at your table today. Welcome the little ones who will need to hear your memories, its how they live on and connect our axis to those going back thousands of years.

Take care, be good to each other, keep remembering! One day thats what we’ll all be.

Turning the corner

December 21st, 2016

Its the day of the longest night. A chilly one for many of us, a night that’s perfect for nesting, and the long winter’s nap we hear about in stories.

Its inside time for most of us, leaves are raked, shrubs covered, plants have gone dormant, squirrels are piling up those last few acorns for the winter so we’re not being distracted with too many outdoor chores. That means reflective time is upon many of us, sometimes of our own doing, sometimes just because its a season of memories.

I’m remembering scavenging my old toys, radios, and flashlights to find a pair of “D” cell batteries to power a cub scout flashlight for just a few minutes of clandestine recon around the christmas tree. It was our christmas eve conspiracy. All six of us kids would wake up around 4 or 430 in the morning, get the littlest among us ready, and in our quietest socks or pajamas sneak down the stairs, checking for mom’s traps or alarm bells as we went.

The year before had been kind of mission failure, as we all crept around the living room in the dark, arms in front of us, my brother pushed forward what turned out to be a punching bag on a spring rod, which in turn, thwapped him or my sister in the face once he moved his hand, the ensuing shrieks and squeals gave us away and mom caught us all and sent us back to bed. I think that mission cost us each a chocolate santa from our stocking, the fine for being caught infiltrating, but i remember we got them all back after we did the christmas dishes.

This year, the flashlight was our secret technology, we would not be caught due to tripping, tipping, or crashing into the tree. As it turns out, Mom slept on the couch that year, waited till we all had our backs to her, and scared us half to death. I remember scrambling back up the stairs climbing over my little sisters as all six of us sprinted to the relative security of our bedrooms.

I don’t remember many other spy missions like that. If we were kids today there would be night vision goggles, kid-sized boroscopes that would help us see around corners, maybe even infra red scanners to detect a parent laying in wait for us.

I wonder what mom thought of us during those early mornings? They truly were some of the few times all six of us kids worked and acted together during the year.

All those memories came about thinking of mom and dad. We only had a few Christmas’s with them over the years, our three year rotation between them, Fred and Fran, and the third year at home was kind of limiting, but I always hope it made some positive memories for my favorite youngest and favorite oldest daughters.

I remember mom and dad loading all six of us up to take us to grandma and grampa’s for a little christmas at their house. Grandma’s tree was always flocked white, and she had red ornaments on it I think. But the herd of us didn’t spend much time upstairs, usually we were sent downstairs to the basement full of cousins. Kids we kind of knew, but always had the sense we weren’t as good as them. Maybe we were more of the rowdy irish and not as much in the kennedy irish models, I’m not sure. Grandma and Grandpa usually gave us nice sweaters and such as gifts, I think one year us kids gave them a door-sized colored santa picture, one of the two or three dad would bring home where we would all lay on the floor and burn through all the red crayons we had, and by some miracle, we’d always get a new box of crayons either in our stocking or wrapped as a gift from Santa. As I look back, that was another way mom and dad kept all six of us busy and a little quiet as we filled that 3 foot by 7 foot piece of paper with red and green crayon. Pretty clever of them.

Dad usually brought home gifts that suppliers and other subcontractors had given him. Sometimes candy, mostly cheeses and sausages, individually wrapped, carefully packed in plastic green grass inside a festive holiday box. The best ones had candy sprinkled in too. Grandma and Grandpa B would usually give us fruit from Florida, oranges and grapefruits that mom especially liked and we would make a production line to cut, squeeze and bottle juices. Fruit was a special treat during the season of the longest night. We didn’t really have the access to summer fruits year round like we do today.

A year ago I was putting the finishing (that is to say sanding off and re-applying the finish) touches on a table for my favorite oldest daughter and her husband. The came south to have a Christmas with us and like the table, so we shipped it east and I sit at it today as I type this. Like most things I do, its not a perfection piece, but it seems to work well. The best part for me was putting the family map on the underside of the top, one that gives some clues about who we all are and where we all came from. I carved a hummingbird in the underside too, the icon of my favorite eldest daughter. The table was an attempt to lock some memories in wood for the grandchildren to puzzle over.

Like maybe most of us do when reflecting on the past, we run across those feelings where we wish we had made a few more trips, spent a few more hours, caused a few less heartaches, for the parents who raised us and the relatives that supported them. Maybe in our heads we could always be better, but like the table, perfection is something maybe a person has to work their whole life to achieve. Which means maybe my next table will be better…?

In the meantime, we do what we can to make each day meaningful to those around us. Look for the opening to do little things for people that they might not notice, but makes the day a bit better. It could be I’m at the age where standing by and looking for the thing to contribute is my role. Maybe we’re not in that time of life where we’re building a family, we’re in that time of life where we’re fixing, straightening, raking, to take a few things off the to-do list of the ones we love.

Remember the ones who can’t be with you this holiday, say their names out loud so that they live another year in the hearts of the family they never got to meet. Tell their stories on this longest night, it might make the morning brighter.

Remember, the days will get longer from here on, more sunshine, more warmth, more things to do. Enjoy reflecting on Christmas past and the people that made them possible!

Time to insulate some pipes.
Be good to each other, Be kind to yourself

…without saying goodbye

December 10th, 2016

One of the pleasures in my life is having the one who holds my heart to say hello to as I wake, and goodbye, I love you, to as I head off to work. Its one of those simple gifts that i lived without for a quarter of a century and now, each day, I am thankful to have someone in life to say hello and goodbye to.

The one who holds my heart and I wake each morning together, and its one of the best gifts i have in life.

This morning, a friend of ours doesn’t have the gift I have. The one who held her heart, for reasons unknown, perhaps health, perhaps finance, perhaps just one more thing went wrong, and it looks like he made a choice to leave us all. He was a hardworking man who was liked by many, loved by many, but when that one last thing went wrong, he decided he was alone, that he couldn’t cope with any more bad things happening, and in a trigger moment, left us all and didn’t say goodbye.

Had he called any of us and said he was at the edge, looking into the darkness, we would’ve collected a group of friends and gone to his side. Maybe he knew that. Maybe he knew that those who loved him would keep him here among us, and maybe he thought that one last thing going wrong was insurmountable. It might have been, but there are 30 or more people that would have worked to find a way around it, if we couldn’t figure out a way through it.

If this was a plan, he hid it from those close to him, hid it behind a smile that was his trademark. A smile that maybe we should’ve looked through? I’ve been told that people who are serious about taking their life work hard to hide their plan. And seeing through the camouflage to see the pain, and help with the problems, is pretty hard, for me, its something i failed at, with Rich, and Freddie, and Dusty, and now with the fellow who seemed to be the happiest around.

Life is hard, we all face that, pain, poverty, loss, all of it makes life heavier than a person can bear, but don’t just leave. We need you here. We can’t fix it all, but will commiserate with you, share what we have with you because you’d do the same for us. Give someone the chance, give someone a call, only good will come of it.

We’ll drive south this afternoon for his visitation, I’m sure there’ll be a crowd there, and even if he couldn’t, we’ll all say our goodbyes today.

Be good to each other, look after each other.

A place for eternity

November 16th, 2016

The one who holds my heart is up North today, helping her family lay the ashes of her favorite male cousin to rest. I had only met him a few times and found his reserved sense of humor, his liberal political values, and his background with Mad magazine and model cars interesting. Jim devoted his career to acts that bring people together it seems, I never really knew what exactly he did, but his company was known as good negotiators, and from my experience, I think he’d be a good and fair negotiator.

Bringing people together with a third party like Jim usually only happens with the two parties can’t see eye to eye, or won’t see eye to eye. It takes a special person, one with a broad and quick intellect, one with a depth of understanding about what makes all humans human, and one with an appreciation for things larger than ones-self. That’s how I think of Jim.

When he’d visit his family here out west, he’d be recommending wine, giving us the inside scoop on Washington, and remembering his days growing up in the midwest. And he was always ready to help. I remember when my favorite youngest daughter was graduating and looking for work in the International development policy field, Jim came up with some names of people that received my daughter professionally, spoke with her at length, and offered some avenues for finding work. I’ll always remember Jim as one of the good guys.

In his last days, he made some decisions about what to do with his ashes, some to Hawaii, some to a Colorado mountaintop, some to a river he’d kayak away stress in, and he asked that some come home to his family place in the midwest. I believe its a good thing to do, have a place where your name is written in stone, where we can come and talk to you from time to time, to remember, to reflect, to absorb a bit of wisdom from the earth below.

We miss you Jim, every day. We’ll come by to visit. Thanks for coming home, it helps us all to know you’re near.

Be good to each other, more than ever before we need that now.

Do good work.

Retiring Partners

November 16th, 2016

I received a note asking me to write a few words about a friend, and former business partner’s career for his upcoming retirement. My earliest memory of Harold, might have been at the old MTL office on 32nd St. South. I was brand new to the firm, had completed my first year teaching, and had been given my weekly “to-do” list from Fred. I was to clean up redlines for Harold on Mondays I think it was, work on a model of downtown Fargo for David on Tuesdays, go in the field with Seth on Wednesday’s, clean up the catalog library for Bob on Thursdays, and work on a project of my own on Fridays. A busy schedule, but they promised my worklife would make it easier to pass the licensing exam so I signed on.

I think it was at the first coffee break, people were discussing getting tickets to the baseball game in Minneapolis, and as walked down the stairs, Harold caught me and said “You know, they won’t be able to serve beer at the Twins game” I looked at him, puzzled, as a life long Cub fan, I was accustomed to beer, hot dogs, and baseball always going together. So I said to Harold “Why?” He said “because the Twins lost the opener” and walked away. I had to think about that for a bit, as Harold said it with a straight face, as he always does. I finally got it.

Dry humor was kind of an indicator of what I learned was an endless supply of calm that Harold projected outwardly. He was always the professional, even on the office’s softball team, when I was having a hard time making good throws from my position at third to first base (meaning over Steves head), Harold walked over and calmly said, “we really need your glove in short center field” relieving me of the long throw, but doing it in a way that wasn’t demeaning. That’s Harold. He’d always find a way to accomplish a greater good without stepping on anyone in the process.

I modeled a fair amount of my behavior (the good parts) on Harold, when I find a way to turn a problem person into a team asset, and my lovely wife notices, I tell her its the North Dakota way, always be as nice as you can, there’s a positive in most every negative. I think I learned that from Harold. Something maybe the country could use…maybe in retirement Harold needs to run for Governor or higher office!

As an architect, Harold was a consummate professional. Clients came first, good work in the office made for good work in the field, which made for good outcomes for the client. He asked the same from the people who worked on his projects. But again, quietly, persistently. Harold wasn’t the kind to storm out of his office and throw a spec book across the drafting room. No. Harold would redline the correction that needed to be made to the drawings, and if a person improvised and changed the design, he’d redline it again, and again, and it would ultimately get done right. His buildings stand across the upper midwest today, In Fargo, Whapeton, Moorhead, and many small towns where today, older people live in decent places thanks to his projects. He is a good architect.

But Harold didn’t buy into the eccentricities that many architects seem to clothe themselves in. No perfectly round eyeglass lenses for him, no all black sportscar (unless we count the Fairmount) He was a regular guy when I knew him, easy to talk to, a good listener, and you knew he valued your conversation.

I’ve missed all of you up there in the North, the solid grounding you all share in doing the right thing is what made my years in Fargo so important to my life. Harold, Judy, Steve, Joanna, Mark and Remar, Kerry and Sue, Chuck and Judy, Dave and Diane, you were my community and I think of each of you often. I’m glad you’re gathering to celebrate Harold’s retirement, I’m glad Steve has found his church, and that this holiday season you’ll all be surrounded with family and grandchildren.

I’m thankful to have been a part of it for a few important years in my life.

Take care of each other, be good to each other. Do good work.

just sayings

May 11th, 2016

Sayings are a kind of shorthand we carry around with us. They are part of our culture, and are kind of unique to times and places.

I connect them with people who say them often, like my friend Chuck who’d say “well a guy could do worse” or “the heck” or “a guy should think about that”, and “thats kind of a mess isn’t it?” or my dad who would be a bit more colorful “that guy could screw up a one man parade” or “a blind man would be glad to see it”. I’d hear that one a lot when we were building together, it was his way of saying the work was good, suitable for the project. I still hear those words from time to time as I undertake my clumsy carpentry, it helps me remember.

Today I’m remembering “O ye of little faith”, thats something VG would say often, sometimes after he successfully exited the car or got up from the chair when you were moving to help him. And “he’s not hurtin anybody” if you tried to chase a mouse out of his “compound”. One of his best ones was “Love many, trust few, and learn to paddle your own canoe.” That one underscores the importance he placed on an independent spirit, something he taught to the one who holds my heart.

I’m remembering VG today, I didn’t get to know him all that well, but believe he was a pretty special man, but I’m missing him, and my mom and dad, and Chuck and Dennis. I’m thinking I don’t have many sayings to impart wisdom the way they did, I’ll have to work on that.

Remember your loved ones passed on, hold your living loved ones close,
Look after each other, be good to each other.

Wanting to be there

March 4th, 2016

I think life just doesn’t let us be in more than one place at a time, well maybe its physics thats at fault there but you get my meaning.

Each of us has responsibilities and relationships that sometimes pull us in different directions, sometimes we can respond to the pull, sometimes we can’t and sometimes we’re en-route to being there with someone when the unthinkable happens. This happened to me with my dad’s passing, I was on the road when I got the call.

There’s not much a person can do at that point. You know you’re trying, but it just didn’t work out. You feel the frustration and guilt of being close but not close enough. I have a partial memory of a line from a movie or a song maybe, it’s an exchange between two people, one who has been away for a long time, the other who has carried on life. The one who was away says they wished they had been there for all the life events they missed, and the one who has carried on takes their hand and tells them “you were there”.

I want to believe that I was there in Dad’s mind, maybe it’s just to relieve some guilt, or to believe I meant enough that he’d think of me just before he passed.

We carry the loves of our life with us, the friends, the family, and the one that holds our heart, we carry them inside us everyday whether they can tell or not. They are there.

I think about my Dad and my Mom each day, about my daughters out east each day, about my family in Chicago, El Campo and Iola, every day. I think of how they’re doing, I hope they’ll keep me in their lives as they go about doing the things life asks of them. I think about the challenges they face and wish I was there, not that I have any magic answers, but just there to share a bit of life with them.

And when we can’t be there in person or in voice or skype or whatever, I hope they know that I carry them with me, as I’m sure you do.

Be present when you can, be there and know its them who hold you there when you can’t be physically present. Hold on to their memory, talk to them (when no one can hear you) and be still, some answer from them will appear in time. They are always with us, telling us, “I’m proud of you”, “I love having you in my life”, “I’ll remember you always”.

Be good to each other today and all days.

We’re in this together.

life, lives, living

March 1st, 2016

I’m working on the twin monitors today, building digital models of historical constructions on one, keeping up with email on the other. The office I have is cozy I guess you’d say, and I can hear pretty much everything that gets said for the next two offices down the line so I wear headphones usually while I work. Not that the conversations my fellow faculty have are uninteresting but its hard to work while they talk so I wear the headphones and listen to music. I was listening to John Williams’s compositions for the film “Saving Private Ryan” as I built stud walls and windows and siding, and of course the music is powerful, very powerful if you pair the music with memories of the film.

The ending of the film is what most popped into my mind. The scene has Private Ryan, now an older man, with children and grandchildren at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. A very moving place, if you can afford the trip across the ocean, I highly recommend it. The French keep it pristine. not a blade of grass out of place, and you can tell from the body language and hushed tones that every visitor knows what the men and women buried here did in the name of freedom. In the movie, the elder Ryan finds the grave marker for Captain John Miller, the Ranger sent to bring Ryan back to be sent home as the only surviving son in his family. Ryan finds the marker and speaks to it, saying he hopes the life he lived was worth the cost paid by John Miller and his squad. As the scene closes, Ryan is moved to tears, his wife comes to his side and he asks her to tell him he’s lived a good life and is a good man.

Its a question.

We do the best we can. But we never know, is it enough? Sometimes things happen in life, things that cost someone else their life, and as we visit them, as we remember them, we wonder, have I paid this back? Can I ever pay this back? And of course we don’t know, we’ll never know. Looking out across the sea of crosses, stars and crescents at the American Cemetery and Memorial, I had that in mind. Am I doing enough to pay them back?

This time of year is typically a hard one for our family, towards the end of the month I’ll be remembering Tyler Binsted, a young man killed at my daughters side for refusing a gunman’s order to get in the trunk of a car with my daughter. He said no and they started walking away, they shot him in the back, she tried to get help, ran back to where he fell, where the shooter was, to try and help but he had passed. A few days after, my mom passed as well, I wasn’t there. You can’t be everywhere all the time i guess. But am I doing enough for them?

Live a good life (not to be confused with “the” good life)
Be fair
Be honest
Be honorable
Help those in need
Work hard

It might be all we can do. I hope it’s enough.

Be good to each other
Look after each other

Life story

January 2nd, 2016

Tell me your story

Tell me the story of your life

This is what I would ask my Dad and Mom if I ever had the chance, its the request I would make in the final days.

It can’t be answered in less than a lifetime, thats why I would ask it of someone getting ready to pass. Because answering it would keep them here, with us.

Its a selfish thing to do, i know. But, I’d ask so they would stay a bit more.

You can picture the conversation, monitors beeping slowly, a frail hand being held. Most of us can picture it, many of us have lived it. No words are in the air, but the story is being told. Through memories, gentle squeezes of the hand, a careful brushing of thin hair from the forehead, no words pass between, but once anger has passed, once the pleadings are done, we begin assembling our memories of them as we hold that hand.

The hand that was strong, the hand that was skilled, the hand that was stern, and the hand that lifted you up when you had fallen. Thats the hand you hold now as you ask “Tell me your story.”

They can’t of course, the tiny blips on the monitors make it clear, the experts have said that they’ve gone in mind, and just remain in body. But the spirit, the story of their life remains. It passed from them to you through the holding of their hand, as it did to each person they touched throughout the years. The story of their life is distributed, in the cloud as the computer people say, in the cloud that was their life, swirling around so many of us every day.

Now the last chapter of their story has been passed to you. You may not have wanted it, you may want to give it back to them, but you can’t. Its in your hand now.

In the difficult times that follow the handing of their life story to you, your job is to gather the pieces of their story, from family, friends, caregivers, anyone who comes by to offer their respects. An offering they make because a life touched theirs.

Gather the story as best you can. It may take years before you can tell it. But it is important. Because its now part of your story.

So before you leave, tell me your story. Tell me about that time they lifted you up, how they sympathized with you but were gently (or directly) telling you to get your life going again, or the time they sang with you, or got you back in line, or made something with you. Tell me about their favorite foods, what they loved about the holidays, and how those birthday parties you organized for them warmed them for much of the years that followed. Speak about their families, and the stories they told about growing up. Tell it all so others hear about them, so you hear it too.

And in the future years around this time, think of the story of their life. Its fullness. Its depth. Tell it with friends and family as best you can. Friends will add to it when you get to the hard parts, thats what friends will do if you let them. We all need help that way, especially during the hard parts, let friends and family tell part of the story then. It will help them too.

And in between, live your story. Pass it on to others when life gives that chance.

Our lives wind around each other every day. The winding helps strengthen life I think.

Be safe and listen to their stories,