Bloom Like Papa
Death and dying is universal. We have all either lost someone close to us or will be touched by that eventuality. Knowing this does not ease the suffering, but it is a reminder that, whatever our differences, we are all flowers in the same garden. We grow, blossom, fade and die, regardless of race or religion, creed or country of origin. And if we’ve lived well there are those whose lives are improved because we existed.
Papa was such a person. He impacted everyone he met with his extreme intelligence, innate kindness and warm generosity. During his years as a college student in New York he worked as an usher at the Metropolitan Opera where he developed his lifelong love of opera and classical music. After earning his medical degree from Georgetown he worked as a country doctor in rural West Virginia, carting his black medical bag through the hills and hollers on foot. Later he joined the U.S. Navy, transitioning to the newly formed U.S. Air Force near the end of WWII when his talents as a physician and administrator were needed. He earned his Masters degree in public health from Harvard and served as hospital commander on the bases where he was stationed, volunteered to serve as flight surgeon on bombing runs during the Viet Nam war, made policy as chief of aerospace medicine, and acted as an Air Force liaison to the CIA. He served the USA proudly for over 20 years and retired a full colonel.
He often said he would serve his country again, in a heartbeat, if only he could pass the physical.
In spite of all Papa’s accomplishments, what those of us who love him remember the most is his great sense of humor and insights, his funny stories, full-of-life personality and kind heart. Life without him is . . . different; our “normal” is forever changed. So how do we find our “new normal?”
Our old normal was a family orchard that included Papa’s life energy flowing through it. Learning to live without his heartbeat nourishing our space is a challenge. We’re doing okay in baby steps, feeling our way, learning to bloom again.
In honor of Papa and those like him, I pray that we all blossom, each and every one of us, with glorious colors that paint the landscapes of our existence with broad strokes of kindness, humor, courage and honest compassion that remain vibrant and relevant, even after we’re gone.