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Tag Archives: loss

I’ll lose her someday.
That struck me full-
Force this morning,
While we were getting
Dressed for work.
Whether it’s my own
Stupidity or her
Getting Alzheimer’s
Or one of us dying,
I’m going to lose her.
So I’m going to make
The most out of every
Damn minute until then.

Today is World Cancer Day. It’s a day of spreading awareness. It’s a day about coming together to fight this together, to finally put an end to cancer.

I’ve lost more than my fair share of friends and family to cancer, folks. More than I’d like to count right now, from my preschool teacher to one of my oldest friends.

It’s not just seeing music artists and actors die before we’re ready to part with them, though that hurts too.

For me, it’s deeply personal. Today, I’m remembering all of my friends who fought cancer, and thinking of those who continue to fight. I love you all.

A great man has left this world, and I need to take a moment to talk about him. His name was Theodore Jerry Baum, and he was my English teacher in my junior year of high school. Mr. Baum died almost a month ago. I’ve been trying to figure out how to memorialize him in a better way than the sadly lackluster obituary our local newspaper provided.

Like most of the kids my age, I met Mr. Baum long before I took a class with him. When you live in a small town, everyone knows everybody else. He taught English and Television Production at Holyoke High School. My first (and sadly only) class with Mr. Baum was my junior year of high school, and I’d been terrified of him. The man was a sort of urban legend, and he had a reputation, at least in my head, of teaching the hardest English class around. No nonsense. Strict, straitlaced. Or so it seemed.

After a while, though, I got to know him a little better. I learned that he loved German food, and that he delighted in playing practical jokes. When my independent study German group decided to have a German meal at school, I made brats and sauerkraut, brought a crock pot full, and let it simmer in my classroom all day. Mrs. Ortner’s room was right across the hall, and she made it quickly known that she HATED the smell of sauerkraut. Naturally, after sharing lunch with us, Mr. Baum took a cup full of sauerkraut and left it hidden in one of Mrs. O’s trashcans for the rest of the day.

He could move far faster than I ever would have thought possible for a man his age. One of his best pranks involved sneaking up on then-counselor Mrs. Vieselmeyer with an air horn, letting it off right next to her head. She spun around and would’ve likely knocked Mr. Baum into the next semester if he hadn’t jumped away.

On another day, I was walking through the library when a book fell from one of the shelves. As I bent to pick it up, another fell. I glanced up in time to see Mr. Baum hiding on the other side of the shelf, chuckling to himself as he pushed the books through onto my side.

As a junior, I participated in the district academic bowl. He was one of our moderators, and at one point in the evening, a question required the phrasing of a line from Oliver. Cue Mr. Baum singing “Consider yourself at home, consider yourself one of the family.”

No tribute to Mr. Baum would be complete without mentioning his cat, Brutus. There were several cats that he owned throughout the years I knew him, and each one, regardless of gender, was named Brutus. I never knew how many of them there were altogether, just that there was always one at a time, a constant companion for him.

He loved to garden during his retirement. He moved into a house down the street from my parents, one that had a lovely garden in the back that had been carefully tended for years by the previous resident. Many afternoons I could go for a walk and find him there, Huskers cap on his head, trowel in hand, continuing the work of maintaining the flowers and vegetables that were growing there.

I’ll never forget him. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I knew him better than most. That would be doing a great disservice to the many people whose lives he touched. I knew him. That was enough.

 

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
But now the end holds
No fear for me. For I
Do not fear death,
And I now know the
Pain of losing you.

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
For I know that I
Shall not live to see
It. Nor would I want
To carry on if I would
Do so without you.

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
And I do not believe
In hell, though I
Have survived the tortures
That any hell could
Hold for one such as me.

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
Though I have raged
Against death and sorrow,
And found my only
Comfort in the arms of
Those I hold most dear.

When I can no longer hear your voice,
I will seek out your words.
If I have nothing else of you,
No lingering trace of your
Perfume, no lasting warmth from
Where your head once rested
Next to mine, I will still have
Your words.
If your face fades from my
Mind as the years pass, and the dreams
We once shared in confidence
Are forgotten in the light of days
Long gone, I will still have your words.
When all else in my world is lost,
I will still have your words, whispered,
Resounding for eternity in my heart.

I had something else that I was writing today, but I just learned that it’s going to have to wait. As Somerset Maugham said, “We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.” I really wish that this were not something I had to say.

Where to start?

On Tuesday night, I lost one of my oldest friends. Kurtis and I had known each other since preschool. We grew up together, or at least got older together. We were good friends all the way through high school. I can’t say that we were best friends, because it’s simply not true, but we always got along, even when we would agree to disagree. In high school, we were part of the local FCCLA chapter, doing community service work, and traveling across the country. We went to Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, and Nashville, and came in as one of the top teams in the nation for the Parliamentary Procedure competition as freshmen and as seniors. Nashville was our last big adventure together, and we didn’t talk a lot after we went off to college. An occasional “Hey, how are you?” or “Happy birthday!” was the closest we really got.

Some time later, I heard that Kurtis had been diagnosed with cancer, but he fought it. With help from his wife, Liz, and his friends and family, he fought. And for a while, he won. On Tuesday night, though, after another long bout, Kurtis knew that it was time for him to say goodbye. I wish that I could be that brave, and that strong. I wish that I’d taken the time to talk to him a little more. Others knew him better, I know, but I am proud to have known him.