I’ve just returned from a wonderful fifteen day trip. I will be writing more about that in the coming days, but for now I need to speak of the many reasons that I really needed to get away for a time. I suppose that all over the world humanity is feeling a sense of uncertainty and sorrow and loss. The last many months have been tough on all of us, even as we did our best to soldier through the difficult moments. I have lost many friends and family members, some because of Covid and some for other reasons. Hardly a week goes by that I do not mourn the death of someone who impacted my life or worry about a person who is fighting to recover from illness or injury.
It is, of course, normal for the life cycle to include tragedy as well as joy, but somehow such occurrences seem more vividly difficult during this time of great divisiveness and misunderstanding. Many of the relationships on which I have relied have been tainted by disagreements and politics, a situation that has truly disturbed me. I had always believed that our connections with one another were stronger than they appear to be and that we would all pull together in spite of our differences. It has been disheartening to learn how fragile some of our friendships actually were, and that political beliefs could be so destructive. Given my own “live and let live” philosophy I have been stunned to see how intransigent so many of our fellow travelers actually are.
The ones who worry me the most are those who adhere to an idea that getting a vaccine for Covid will somehow make President Biden look good, and therefore must be avoided at all costs. Meanwhile even as I write this, I know of individuals who are now in the hospital with Covid after defiantly refusing the protection of a vaccine. This truly breaks my heart.
As I traveled from place to place I understood that only fifty percent or fewer American adults have fully partaken of the vaccine. Every store or public place that I entered required those unvaccinated individuals to wear masks, and yet fewer than one or two percent of the people inside were wearing the protective gear. This tells me that almost half of the population is being defiant and taking very unnecessary health risks. This kind of destructive behavior is gravely testing my usual sense of optimism. I am truly worried about where such cavalier behaviors will lead.
In the meantime, it has been a difficult summer as I have watched some dear friends lose their battles with other diseases. Dr. Jake Jacoby cared for my beloved dogs, Red and Scarlet, in his capacity as a veterinarian, but he was much more than a caretaker of my animals. Jake was a friend. I enjoyed many an evening with him and his wife, Fran, at parties and gatherings. I taught religion classes to his son, Roy, many years ago. Eventually Roy and my daughter, Maryellen, would attend high school and the University of Texas together. Over time I grew to admire and love the whole Jacoby family. Jake was the steadfast patriarch of the beautiful group and he always seemed to exude kindness and comfort. The world was always a better place as long as he was in it.
While on vacation I learned that another beloved friend, Jackie McSpadden, had died. Jackie was one of the kindest most loving women that I have ever known. She lived across the street from my dear friend, Pat Weimer, and over the years we gathered for lunches and parties. My daughter, Maryellen, also attended high school and the University of Texas with Jackie’s son, Bill. In fact, Maryellen and Bill went to their senior prom together, and Jackie hosted a big overnight party for all of the seniors.
Jackie was like the big sister that I never had. She always seemed to be coming to my rescue. On one occasion I had enrolled my daughters in swimming classes at a local high school. Jackie was there with her boys as well. My youngest girl, Catherine, was rather afraid of the water and ended up sobbing inconsolably and begging for me to take her out of the pool. I did not know what to do, and so I just let Catherine become more and more hysterical, thinking that she just needed to realize that the water was not that bad. Suddenly Jackie went over to the scene, stepped into the water wearing a gorgeous pant suit, shoes and all, and gently removed Catherine and brought her to me. Quietly she told me that Catherine was not yet ready for the methods being used by the coaches and suggested that I just love her and take her home.
I am going to miss my two friends Jake and Jackie. They were both exceptional people who quietly taught me so much about how to live a good life. Somehow it seems so wrong to lose them right now. They both were still young and had so much more to give to the people who loved them. It is always so hard to lose such really good people.
My friend, Adriana, has just lost her beloved mother. I so enjoyed the pictures and anecdotes that Adriana shared whenever she visited her mama. Mrs. Alanis had a delightful smile and an even more wonderful sense of humor. She and Adriana had a special bond of love that filled me with optimism about the world. I will miss knowing that they are laughing and celebrating life together.
My boyhood friend, Jack Villagomez, has been recovering from a brain injury for months now. He has good days and bad. He has always been a bright light for me. He is a fun person who enjoys a good laugh and views the world through a brilliantly delightful lens. His posts on Facebook always made me happy so not seeing them for now has been difficult, but not nearly as much as it has been for his family members who so love him. I pray that one day he will be back to being the Jack that we all know and enjoy. I know that he has a great deal of determination and has already come far. Somehow I believe that he will make it.
Finally, a colleague from work lost his eldest son in a road rage shooting after an Astros game. Paul Castro is an educator’s educator. He has worked with young people for his entire career, but his family has always been first and foremost in his mind. He was so proud of his son who was a very gentle soul. Paul has responded to this tragedy in the most inspirational way. He has asked us all to stop the hate by spreading love in everything that we do. He is leading us all by example just as he has always done as a teacher. He is a light in the darkness, the sunrise on a cloudy day. Perhaps he will show us all how to deal with the difficulties that are seemingly making our world a crazy place to be.
Jake, Jackie, Mrs. Alanis, and Paul Castro are helping me to keep the faith. My trip led me to see the beauty in the world. I am determined to come out of all this more loving, more giving, more optimistic, and more determined to value the important aspects of living. We might all take time to take a deep breath and vow to eliminate hate by loving even those who anger us. The sun will continue to rise and so must we.