Death

It is with hands grasped in gratitude and thoughtfulness for Anthony, Harold, my family, my life and those whose paths my life has crossed which I write.
Last Sunday evening I lay in bed reading from my Kindle. The light of the screen the only light illuminating the room. I put down my Kindle and glanced at my Facebook feed. To my surprise, I was informed of the death of Harold Nichols. Harold was 53 and was murdered in Jamaica. Harold and his wife had lived in Jamaica for approximately 15 years and were missionaries for a local church. Harold and his wife selflessly provided to others what those individuals were unable to provide for themselves.
Tuesday, while sitting at my desk, I heard a ping. I was unable to identify the source until I closed several windows on my computer screen and found a message from a previous coworker. The message informed me of another death. this one a 56 y.o. male with whom I had worked.
Both individuals were quiet and humble and caused those of us who are introspective to examine our place in the world as well as what we offer to the world. This news comes to me just 6.5 days into the start of a new job. I left my last job as a result of the stress which I have felt for the past year and which I was concerned would result in more significant complications
As I was writing this post, a message popped up on my computer indicating the arrival of a new email. I opened the email and found this message forwarded to me from a friend.
Keanu is 50. He posted this photo and this message: “You see these people behind me? They are rushing to work and not paying attention to anything. Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to take the time out. Say Hi to someone you see and maybe give a hug to someone who looks like they’re hurting. Help out someone. You have to live every day like it’s your last. The person who was holding you back from your happiness was you. Every day is precious so let’s treat it like that. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so live today!”
Keanu
I am sitting outside on this Mother’s Day, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face the taste of a fine cigar mingling with the smooth taste of a glass of scotch not taking anything for granted. As I grow older I realize with more certainty that another day is not promised to any of us. I have also learned to accept this fact and live my life accordingly. I rise each morning and go for a run. My pace is slower but that matters none to me. What is important is that I have the ability to still run.
Run I will. I will also continue to live each day to the best of my ability not complaining when things do not go my way but accepting what is and changing what I can.
Namaste.
Advertisements

A Sunday hike

I have not written, other than in my journal in some time. There are small pangs of guilt when I do not write as I think, “Will readers of my blog be upset?” I try not to focus on these thoughts and write when the mood strikes me. I am much more interested in writing something which appeals to the senses instead of filling white space on a page.

 
I woke Sunday and smiled as the forecast for the day promised sun throughout. Anyone who lives in the Northeast understands the importance of seeing the sun. At least for me, the sun, or more importantly seeing the brilliant rays of the sun is integral to my mood. While sunlight increases our body’s ability to make Vitamin D, it is also important to ease the bouts of sadness and depression which can also accompany this time of year.
 
Our economy continues to struggle. Daylight is scarce as sunset is at 4:45 PM. I drive to my office in the dark and return home in the dark. My thoughts went in the direction of running trails at a local park but this desire rapidly waned as I thought about going for a hike with my son. I went to his room and he smiled as he agreed to rise and walk with me. 
 
Both of us are Introverts. Anyone riding in a car with us or spending much time with us might wonder about the quality of our relationship. We spend little time speaking to each other but at the same time understand completely our feelings for each other. To understand this, one must be an Introvert. We do not require any special circumstances to fill the silent void which sits comfortably between us. My son updated me on his progress at college. As he did so i smiled inside listening to his desire to follow through with his goals; the happiness in his voice testament to his internal happiness.
 
We arrived at our destination. I donned a small pack carrying my journal and a fountain pen and a bottle of water. I attached my GoPro camera to a pole and off we went. The conversation on our walk was limited as it was on our drive to the trailhead. We both understand and agree we are acceptant of this quiet. It is the solitude for which I look forward to experiencing and I believe this is true for Stephen. We did not discuss this as there was no need to do so; our silence filled with understanding of each other as well as our need for solitude.
 
Thoreau said, “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” These words spoken by Thoreau when he wrote his journal are words which resonate with me. I rise at 4:30 AM most days of the week, don my running clothing and step out the door to begin my day. Questions from those around me pummel me at various times throughout the day. Previously I would become angry with these questions, dismissing them as “stupid” and “ridiculous”. As I grow older I have come to accept the differing opinions of others even when they seem to me to be far fetched. It is questions such as “Isn’t it cold outside?” Of course it is, it’s the middle of winter. “Why do you get up so early in the morning?” This is the time of day as Thoreau has mentioned earlier which sets the tone for my day. It helps me maintain a healthy balance when navigating through the chaos which others seem to thrive upon. This pace, the one apparently so loved by others is not loved by me. I will not say it is “hated” but that term remains in my head.
 
We drove home, again in almost complete silence. The trees passing by in a blur. A smile on my face indicating the happiness which has been gained; a happiness which will accompany me throughout the day and into the night.
 
Find those things, those activities which bring you happiness. Resist the urge to jump into the stream of life and travel along with all of the other souls on a path which causes more stress and ill-health, a path which brings unhappiness to most of us. Once you have identified those activities, do them. Do them as frequently as possible. make a change in your life that is based on happiness and enjoying your life. 
 
Happiness comes from within. It does not come from material possessions or things. Identify the people and the activities which bring this happiness to you. Cherish it and do not allow its importance to be tarnished by those around you. Assess the gifts in your life; your family, your children, your health, your happiness. Do not give these gifts, this happiness away to those who do not understand it. Cherish it. Smile. Take care of yourself and the rest will follow.
 
Namaste
 

Serendipity

A few years back my son, wanting to save a few dollars on his daily commute to his summer job found a scooter for sale. To his mother’s chagrin, i accompanied him to look at the scooter and supported him when he expressed a desire to complete the purchase. Eighteen months later and the same scooter, a 2004 Yamaha Zuma had fallen into disinterest. The scooter sat in my garage becoming a shelf and closet for whatever it might hold. Never did I imagine it was through this threshold that I would meet such an amazing individual.

I urged my son to put an ad in the paper or on Craigslist and sell it. It didn’t sell and my son, while a great kid has a nasty streak causing him to procrastinate more than what I find acceptable. My wife, expressing a desire to have garage sale, suggested we try and sell it at the garage sale. The nonbeliever in me said, “Go for it! It’s your garage sale.” The morning of the second day this guy walks up the driveway. he brings with him a friend who I later come to know as David Smithers. I was sitting in my backyard reading and trying to tolerate the humidity when I heard David’s youthful (aged 79) exuberance. He was out of sight from where I was sitting but I know and English accent when I hear one. The conversation between David and my wife began to turn toward motorcycles, Triumph is David’s ride of choice, and the price of petrol in pounds per liter. I was intrigued and rose to meet David who I had come to find out  was not interested in the scooter but had come with his friend Mark. 

Mark expressed an interest but I didn’t believe he would follow through. When he called and arrived to make an offer he again brought with him his friend David. This time David engaged me in a conversation and in his friendly, free-wheeling style began to tell me the story of the friend he has been looking for since the two had met over fifty years ago.

This is a warm and beautiful story. It’s a story of friendship, love, hope and perseverance. A story of what, in my opinion friendship should be.

I’m not sure if David will ever attain his goal of finding his long lost friend but something tells me the friendships he has made along the way will offer him some level of comfort in his search.

I am going to let Jane Kwiatowski tell the story in an article which was printed in the Buffalo New in 2004

I hope you enjoy this amazing story of friendship as much as I did.

To appreciate this story, one must first understand David Smithers, his passion for life, his penchant for making friends and the resolve that has brought this gritty Brit across an ocean to Buffalo in search of a wartime friend.

“Maybe Bob’s getting old now,” Smithers said. “Surely he must have some sons or daughters or someone like that who can tell me something. I do know that he loved Buffalo. He never stopped talking about Buffalo and his girlfriend. I just would like, in my mind, to know: “Bob, are you in Buffalo? Are you alive? I want to say hello to you. I have never forgotten our friendship.’ “

Smithers met Robert E. Drimmer in a hospital during the Korean War some five decades ago. The two young men were stationed in Pusan, South Korea – Smithers with the British Army and Drimmer with the U.S. Army. At the time they met, Smithers was visiting a friend in the same ward as Drimmer. When the friend was released, Smithers continued going to the hospital every other day to visit Drimmer, who was being treated for a stomach ailment.

“I was 19 and he was 25,” Smithers said. “He was quite clever, a nice guy, and we talked of things to do when we got home. I told him about England. He told me about America. We became good friends. Would you look for someone all this time if you were not his good friend?

“I told Bob that one day, I would walk up his garden path to knock on his door because I promised I would do it. I absolutely will never ever forget that to the day I die. He lived then in Buffalo, N.Y., and he had a girlfriend here. For years, I’ve been thinking about seeing Bob.”

Smithers went on to join the British Merchant Navy, married and started a family, yet the memory of the friendship that formed between the two veterans remains strong. His visit this month marks the fourth time the 70-year-old veteran has traveled to Buffalo, part of a search that he started in earnest in 1960. He’s scoured telephone books, explored library archives, petitioned veterans’ groups – all in search of the man who touched his life so many years ago.

“I took him to be a very very clean-living man,” Smithers recalls. “The reason I say this is because I also had some friends who were American Marines. When I went out with them, it was a totally different situation – womanizing and beer drinking. Me and Bob would have a drink and we would talk a lot about Buffalo. We were supposed to keep in touch, but I lost his address because I then went into hospital.”

As he sits on a bench near the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, he tells about his six children, his hobby of Chinese cooking and of life in Bournemouth, a coastal town in southern England with seven miles of beaches. He usually wears a Union Jack pin on his collar, Smithers explains, but on this day he is dressed “young.” Golden medallions, chunky rings and a flat cap dress up this European vacationer – not to mention a sea of tattoos on his arms.

Seated by his side is Mark Prine, a new friend discovered in the City of Good Neighbors. At age 32, Prine coaches football at Seneca High School. The Buffalo native recalls his parents repeatedly chiding him for talking to strangers, but that didn’t stop him from engaging Smithers in conversation in a downtown bar.

It was summer of 2000, and Smithers – only hours in Buffalo – was coming off a rough night in a dirty hotel room where a woman offered him a rubdown and the television looked like it came “out of the Ark.” He was scared, alone and quickly forming a bad opinion of Buffalo. When he saw Prine, he decided to strike up a conversation.

“And there he sat in his monkey suit,” Smithers recalled, “and I thought, “What a weird guy,’ in the middle of the afternoon sitting in a monkey suit drinking Southern Comfort.”

Dressed in a tuxedo for his job as a waiter, Prine had been killing time.

“He made a comment to me,” Prine said. “We started talking, and I found his story very intriguing. I was upset that Buffalo wasn’t all he thought it would be. He said he didn’t like Buffalo and that he wanted to leave. I was there to prove him wrong. I lived here my whole life and I took that as an insult, so I offered to take him to Chippewa.”

A night on the town was followed by a day at the beach, which was followed by a trip to Niagara Falls with Prine and his girlfriend. And so it began, the type of friendship Buffalonians tend to form over time.

“I wanted him to always feel comfortable coming back to Buffalo,” Prine said. “We consider him family now.”

Year after year, Smithers returns to continue the hunt for his war mate, staying with one of Prine’s relatives – new friends helping in the search for an old friend. Sometimes, they drive through Delaware Park.

“I do have that feeling that he is with us,” said Smithers. “And I do get that feeling that he still is in Buffalo. And I get strange feelings. For some reason, when we drive through that park, when I see these big houses, I think of Bob and I think that he would have done well for himself, maybe even become a lawyer or something like that.”

At one point, the search led to Florida after a call to one of the five Drimmers listed in the Buffalo phone directory yielded a Dr. Drimmer who had moved south. Smithers jumped on the lead, but as the the costs of the long-distance phone bills mounted, Smithers determined he had reached another dead end.

Drimmer would be 76 now, and Smithers realizes he must start facing the possibility that he may never again see his friend alive.

“I would be quite upset, but not terribly upset if something came of this story and I was told Bob passed away,” Smithers said. “I would go visit his grave then, put a bunch of flowers on it and say: “I told you I’d be here, buddy.”

 BY Jane Kwiatkowski – NEWS STAFF REPORTER

on August 25, 2004