Thursday, April 10, 2008

The passing of the seasons

April is a precarious time in Georgia.

As Spring tries to sprout via the pollen-laden trees--the Dogwoods , peach and cherry blossom --the last vestiges of Winter try desperately to hang on for dear life.

One day it can be sunny, 78 degrees and no humidity, and then the next 55 degrees and windy. Since February, we've experienced a round of tornadoes, followed by frigid temperatures at least three times.

I do recall even experiencing a snow storm in the first weeks of April, many years ago.

It's a tumultuous time, but Spring wins out, as everything that was old is new again and things that were dead come to life again.

In the past two weeks, I've seen the struggle and ultimate passage of life to death and death to life in my own neighborhood.

A couple of months ago, my neighbor and friend, Donna, called to ask me if I wanted to see John Fogerty in concert--FOR FREE! Um...YEAH!

When I asked Donna who gave the tickets to her, she told me about Ken Durr--a neighbor that lives in our complex--someone I had never met.

Donna told me that Ken was a writer and a 'hermit' like Donna and me, and that he'd been living in our complex for a few years. She also told me that he was a Vietnam Vet, who was exposed to Agent Orange. From that exposure, he had already battled prostate cancer and won, but now his body was--again--riddled with The Big C.

We bought Ken a John Fogerty t-shirt and his latest cd, and I finally met Ken.

It was like meeting an old friend. Through his weakened state, there was a distinct charisma that shone like a bright light from him.

We talked shop: He told me about how he was a copywriter back in the day, and how he was working on a book about the brothels that used to dot the train tracks all along Georgia, during WWII.

Well, that caught my attention. According to Ken, basically there were little towns along the routes that took GI's in and out of Fort Benning, GA, that basically served as um, shall we say "R&R" towns for the boys getting ready to ship out or train for WWII.

I was hooked, so to speak.

Ken and I sat and talked for about an hour, which is about all he could handle, and he gave me a big hug as I left.

Little did I know that it would be one of the last times I'd see him alive. We emailed, as he went through chemo, and he would write when he was up to it. He was always upbeat, determined to kick the cancer that was ravaging his body.

If anyone could do it, it would be Ken Durr. He made it out of Vietnam alive--he was in the middle of combat as a helicopter pilot--and he saw the Cancer as a weaker battle.

But, as in Vietnam, he underestimated the enemy.

Two weeks ago, Donna called me when I was in a meeting with a client, to tell me that Ken had died at home, with his wife by his side.

For most people that know me, you know that I don't "do" funerals very well. I find, especially in the south, the whole propping the coffin open and sitting and staring at a soul who has obviously passed sort of, well, morbid, but that's just me.

I know for many, it's a time to say a final goodbye. For me, when I go, I want no pomp and circumstance, as my body is going to Emory University for medical students to work on, and then to be cremated.

However, when it came to Ken Durr, I was going to the viewing and the funeral. His wife, Darlene, had been his full-time partner, caretaker, nurse 24/7. I wanted to go for her too. It was hard to see him in the coffin, bald and gaunt.

I preferred the pictures of him, next to the casket, when he was well, full of life, and smiling. I didn't know Ken for very long, but when I met him, I felt like I knew him forever. I am glad his suffering is over, and it seems appropriate that as the calendar seasons changed, so did Ken's season come to an end during Spring.

His spirit is still all around.

Another soul passed on as well last week.

I have a dear friend, Colleen, and over the years we have been the best of friends and sometimes we've so gotten on each other's nerves, that we have to take a break.

Our tempers run about the same, and we have some of the same issues about holding things in and then going off at some point. Both of us know how we are when we "go off" and I think we restrain, or handle conflicts in email sometimes, because we know what would happen if we did it in person.

It doesn't mean I don't love or care about her, because I always have and I always will, but there are times when I'm overly sensitive about issues, or she is sensitive about something, and our 'issues' sort of bump up against each other.

We are sort of like 'Gladiators' in battle, but when the dust clears, I always have her back and she's got mine.

She's been going through a lot in the past few years, and her will to survive is something I admire. Colleen is like the 'Phoenix.' No matter the crisis, she will rise, unscathed and stronger out of the ashes.

Colleen is one of the biggest characters I have ever met. She is larger than life, and I suppose that is what has always attracted me to her as a friend.

Throughout our relationship, her mom and dad have played a large role. The stories she has about growing up in Louisiana, with her daddy taking her everywhere, are priceless. Like her, her daddy was larger than life.

I wish I could have met him in person, but the times that I was invited to go with her back home, I had to work, or something didn't work out.

After a long illness, Colleen's daddy passed last week. She had just gotten home to see him, to sit with him, to hold his hand and tell him that she loved him, and vice versa, so that is a good thing.

When I saw some of the pictures from the graveside service, it looked like a gorgeous Spring day. There's no doubt that his soul is still alive and all around. Much of it is embodied by Colleen herself.

For Ken and Les, and their families, this is for you:

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.

A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

a time to kill and a time to heal ...
a time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn and a time to dance ...
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;

a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;

a time for war and a time for peace.

ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


That was a beautiful tribute to your friend Ken and my daddy. There are really no words that can aptly describe my gratitude and thanks. I have tears in my eyes.

The funeral was very hard for me, but I can feel my dad with me everyday. His spirit lives on and is at peace and is very, very happy. Daddy would have really liked you and I have a strong suspicion he does. :-)

Thanks again,