I just attended a funeral of a friend, Raymond Kelliher, PhD, in Easton, Massachusetts. Let me tell you about him and if you don't have anyone like him in your life, read this as quick as you can, then go out and find a person like Raymond and don't stop until you do.
He had many outward accomplishments in life, but let's face it, that's not what's really important - it's how a person lives their life that matters. You can't feel, embrace, laugh with, and experience Raymond's impressive advanced academic degrees or his careers in education and business. I look back at the too few conversations I had with him, and those conversations felt like absorbing a warm sun on your face during a cold winter day.
He had a gift. Meeting him was life giving you extra credit.
When there was an upcoming gathering, I always asked, "Are Christine and Raymond going to be there?" When he met me, he would immediately push me (or anyone else he was talking to) into the front of the line of his thoughts and become genuinely interested in the events in my life; and then later, share his life with me because he honestly cared about what I thought.
Nope, he wasn't perfect. We're all complicated and he had his particularities as well. At the service, his beloved wife Christine talked about his tendency to stockpile. She once counted 78 cans of tuna in the basement with expiration dates spanning over ten years ("Christine, don't throw them out, they're still good"). Most of us food shop to satiate hunger, Raymond must have been looking for long-term relationships. The supermarket checkout should have given him adoption papers instead of purchase receipts, but there you have it.
I don't know about you, but sometimes in conversation with people, I run out of words before the conversation ends. I then put some effort into taking a knee and letting the conversation's clock run out while still trying to keep eye contact so as not to offend the other person. Raymond never had that problem. The only break we had in conversations together was when we would laugh so hard the words wouldn't come. He didn't discriminate. His empathy, kindness, and humor shook hands with all comers - the man's auto mechanic came to his wake. Let me state that again, his auto mechanic came to his wake. He had that effect on people.
I will miss him, but I will carry his voice with me and remember him fondly. It's hard, sometimes really hard, to understand why God needs a person more than we do here on earth, but acquiescing to that taking does not negate Raymond's kind and gentle existence in any way. Perhaps it honors him more if we, in life, find and value something honest, something funny, something kind...something Raymond, .
His last lesson to me was a stanza from a poem read at his service, Mary Oliver's In Blackwater Woods:
"You must be able
to do three things;
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the times comes to let it go,
to let it go."