In Hamlet, Polonius gives advice to his two children, Laertes and Ophelia. One bit directed toward his son goes: Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.
When we got to Carlsbad, one of the first couples we got to know were J and M. In their mid seventies, they were nevertheless young thinkers and actors and although J was having some serious problems with a chronic health condition, it was he who accompanied us as we worked on the Habitat house where we sensed some of the chagrin he was feeling as his physical condition made the work he loved difficult. We spent several evenings at their house with the other SOOPers, Agnes spent a number of Wednesdays helping M to sort and bag pecans for MCC, and this Monday, I helped J mark off the lines for nailing siding on the storage shed for the last of the Habitat houses. The same evening, J and M came to our place (which is their fifth wheel provided us after out problems with the RV we had rented) and we fed them salmon and baked potato, etc., and played Mexican Train - a dominoes game that J loved - until 10:00 p.m. Both of them have a great sense of humour and we laughed plenty. They told us about their good times when they'd travel with their RV and boat to Florida (for instance) and J would spend the mornings on Habitat construction and the afternoons on the boat. Their love for each other and for life was obvious.
On Wednesday, the two of them went for their regular swim in the recreation centre near their home and J - as usual - spent some time in the hot tub and then dived into the cool pool. When M looked around for him, he was nowhere and she was in a panic. She finally spotted him floating in the pool below the water level and yelled for help to remove him an call the ambulance.
There was no reviving him, and as I sit here, J is slipping away from all of us at the Carlsbad Medical Centre, his family around him.
J isin charge of the pecan harvest and shelling for MCC fundraising at Carlsbad Mennonite. he is a long-time, founding member of CMC and deeply loved by all who know him around town. If he should miraculously recover - please God - or if he should be taken home, he will always be associated in my mind with pecans and building houses for less fortunate folk. Of all his passions, these were the ones that it was my privilege to witness and share with him.
Is six weeks long enough for a friendship to sprout and grow? With a man like J, I think that 6 days are plenty. Some people are so gifted that way, and we are all much better for having known them.