What a difference a week can make.
Last weekend found Carl and I working on dismantling Thing Two and remodeling the Pachyberm. We'd worked until dark on Sunday night and since the project was moving along quite well and Carl's job was slow, he was planning on coming home early on Monday to finish up.
I didn't sleep well Sunday night and woke up groggy on Monday morning. Ann called to see how the weekend went and as I was talking to her, I missed a call from Carl's niece. I returned her call a few minutes later.
"Hello, how are you?" she asked.
"Eh, I've been better," I half-jokingly replied. "How are you?"
"I just wanted to let you know Dad died this morning," she said, between sobs.
Oh.....nothing prepares you for those words..........Carl's brother, Larry, was deceased at age 62.
I can't say his death was completely unexpected. Sadly, he'd been suffering from a rare neurodegenerative disease for at least twenty years which had been steadily progressing in severity as time went on. He'd suffered falls due to seizures and many, many other debilitating health problems that I'm sure we knew nothing of.
The disease robbed him of his ability to control his muscles, causing involuntary movements. His gait was profoundly affected; he staggered and had the appearance of a drunk. He repeatedly bit his tongue and used a mouth guard for protection. His speech was difficult to understand as his words were badly slurred. (I could understand him if he took his time trying to talk; ironically, my years of dealing with alcoholics came in handy after all.)
He'd lost his marriage and shortly afterward, his career as a machinist. I'll never forget the day I drove him to his workplace to meet with his foreman. His boss did his best to gently explain that due to his illness, it simply wasn't safe for Larry to continue working there. The company didn't have a choice, the work was complicated and spinning lathes are dangerous. He took special care to assure Larry he would be greatly missed, but the company's insurance couldn't chance a horrible accident.
Larry was devastated, but was determined to recover and come back one day when he was well. In the meantime he had his own shop at home where he could get some work done. All was not lost, he just had to get better.
Through all of his many, many trials and tribulations, which were of truly epic proportions, I never once heard Larry say, "Why me?" He never wallowed in self-pity. He always had a kind smile for everyone and wanted to make people happy and at ease. He was always optimistic; one day he would get better and get back to work. He just had to keep the faith.
And keep the faith he did; his religion meant the world to him. He was an usher at church right up until the week before he died even though walking was pure torture for him. He would never give up or give in. If I were in his position I would have been too self-conscious to even be seen in public, but Larry wasn't. He was simply determined not to let the disease rob him of all the things he loved. He could still walk, and as the priest said at his funeral service, "It wasn't pretty, but he wasn't going to give up."
Carl and I didn't help Larry as much as we should have. We will always regret it, too. There never seems to be enough time in the day, but we know that's a flimsy excuse. The problem is we always take time for granted, thinking there will always be more. Until there's not.
I called Carl at work to give him the news and he came home. We went to give Mom her medication and then headed over to Carl's folks' house to see if we could be of some help. On the way, we stopped at Larry's house next door and met with his children who were gathered there.
Hugs and tears were shared; the shock of losing a loved one is universal. There is never a good time to say goodbye. No one really knows what happened; there was speculation his heart had given out. With all of his health issues, his heart had to work harder than ever.
My father-in-law reluctantly accepted a hug from me with tears welling in his eyes. He and my mother-in-law would now be burying their second child. Their first was Donna, who was killed in a car accident at the age of eighteen. My mother-in-law was having difficulty grasping the fact of Larry's passing; he'd been to their house on Sunday for their traditional waffle brunch.
"I just can't believe it," she sighed, "He was having such a good day yesterday."
Carl and I went home to eat dinner when Larry's children went to the funeral home to make arrangements. I volunteered to help by arranging for pallbearers; calling our sons, Joel and David, and two of Larry's first cousins, Dave and Dan.
While I was waiting for return phone calls, we received another call from Carl's aunt; my father-in-law's sister Elsie had passed away, too. Larry and his Aunt Elsie...both on the same day.
Carl and I sat down in the living room, stunned. Outside, the sun was shining and all was bright and beautiful on a perfect Halloween day. None of this seemed real.
By mid-afternoon, we had plans in place. Aunt Elsie's visitation would be on Wednesday evening, and her funeral would be Thursday morning. Larry's visitation would be Thursday evening and his funeral would be Friday morning.
Added to all of this was our septic system construction. Permits arrived last week and arrangements were made to get a start on the job since the weather is holding. We've noticed issues with the plumbing again and our contractor said he was barely able to fit us in, but would if the county inspectors okayed the construction. If we wait any longer, we'll be into winter. The thought of using an outhouse for the next six months didn't appeal to us. Even though the timing was awful, we have to get the septic tanks in.
Carl and I dropped the Pachyberm remodeling and went to work on the septic preparations. Fred arrived Thursday morning bright and early.
Carl and I sawed down another tree which was in the way and limbed up a bunch more; ran to Green Bay to get pipe that Fred forgot to pick up, came back home and then set to work hauling black dirt from our mulch pile to cover the mound with.
We didn't have a lot of time since we needed to be to the funeral home by 4:30 PM, but thankfully, the job went smoothly. Carl used our old H tractor to load the dirt and I hauled it to and fro with the 574.
I lost track of how many loads we hauled, but we kept moving, that's for sure. Ann came out and brought lunch for us and helped shovel sand and gravel. (Did I ever mention what a fantastic friend Ann is??)
By noon things looked like this:
Fred covered the mound with the black dirt and by 4PM he was on his way while Carl and I put the tractors away and raced home to shower and get ready for Larry's funeral visitation. We'd gone to Aunt Elsie's visitation the night before, but sadly, missed her funeral due to the construction here.
The funeral visitation was, as I expected, highly attended. Such a bittersweet way to reunite with relatives and friends; it's a shame we don't get together during the happy times, but again, it's taking time for granted. We all do it. The line to console the mourners was out the door; Larry would have been amazed. But he shouldn't have been; he was truly the best of all of us.
My mother was stunned by Larry's death, "62! That's so young!" but she also knew he'd been suffering for years. "Maybe it was a blessing?"
I know people say things like, 'At least they're not suffering any more' or 'They're in a better place', etc. and yes, that's true. But there's never a good time to say goodbye no matter what the circumstances.
We will always miss those we loved.