Indistinguishable elements

Dear blog readers,

Yesterday afternoon Jeff and I got shocking news of the unexpected death of a dear family member, Larry.  Those of you who read the comments may already know of him through his thoughts that he often posted here.  Larry was the husband of Jeff’s younger sister, Jennifer. He died Saturday at their home in Tennessee, apparently of a massive heart attack. He was 54 years old, a husband, father and grandfather, and a true son to Jeff’s widowed mother, to whom he was especially close.

He was usually behind the camera, not in front of it, so photos of him are rare.  I did find this one I took of him in August 2009, when he wasn’t looking:

Larry grabs a few minutes of quiet after a family gathering in August 2009.

Larry grabs a few minutes of quiet after a family gathering in August 2009, Centerville, TN.

I have never known anyone who worked harder than Larry, but he defied the stereotype of driven Type A behavior.  He was soft spoken, cheerful, astoundingly patient and always kind.  In fact, he is one of very few people I have known for decades about whom I can say that I never once heard him say anything mean about anybody, or put anyone else down in any way.  In more than 35 years of knowing him, I never saw him angry or rude.  I feel that this world will be a less friendly and loving place without him.

Larry had worked the day before, as he did for years, as a radiographer at a local hospital, taking x-rays, CT scans and other types of diagnostic imaging.  His job required him to work long hours and many holidays, but you would never hear him complain.  He felt great compassion toward the patients he served, and toward anyone who was suffering.  He gave me honest and often reassuring explanations of some of the complex statistics of Jeff’s many radiology reports.  I can’t imagine being unable to talk about such things with him.

Jeff and I feel numb with shock.  As always, and now more than ever, we appreciate your prayers for us and our family, and especially for the many people who will miss Larry so keenly in the coming weeks and months and years.  In particular we are mindful of his young grandson who spent many happy hours with his PaPa and will no doubt be lost without him.

It is a consolation of sorts to know that Larry died quickly and without prolonged suffering.  Jeff’s mother said that his face was full of peace when she saw him.  Knowing Larry’s great faith in God, I take comfort in thinking of him at home with the heavenly Father who was his constant source of strength and hope.

Because I have these posts scheduled in advance, they will continue as normal, with one exception.  Below is a post that I originally had scheduled for next Wednesday.  I have changed it to be today’s post, because it seemed more appropriate.

The grave of Ralph Waldo Emerson (center) and family members, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts, June 2012

The grave of Ralph Waldo Emerson (center) and family members,
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts, June 2012

“Truly the universe is full of ghosts, not sheeted churchyard spectres, but the inextinguishable elements of individual life, which having once been, can never die, though they blend and change, and change again for ever.”H. Rider Haggard

One year ago today I wrote about the attraction I feel toward graveyards, with all their untold stories.  In Concord Massachusetts there’s a wonderful old cemetery called — I am not making this up — Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  Within its winding paths is a section known as Author’s Ridge, where one can see the graves of the Thoreau, Emerson, Alcott and Hawthorne families.

Even without the resting places of these famous individuals, the cemetery is a fascinating place.  While most of us are aware of the ways Emerson, Thoreau and others have left indistinguishable elements that remain today, I have no doubt that people whose names we would not recognize have left legacies as well.

Many of them have direct descendents who are citizens of Concord or other places.  Some exerted influence as educators, politicians, clergy, business owners, readers and writers who lived and worked and left bits of their thoughts and characters behind for us to discover in generations to come.

Each and every life changes the world in some way.  What indistinguishable elements are you creating, that will be here and live on when your physical body is gone?

One year ago this week:

A graveyard can teach you

4 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Larry. He was so young. Prayers for you all.

    I also love cemeteries. I like to sit there and read or just soak in the quiet. There’s something about them. Maybe because they’re the closest thing we have to being near people from the past.

    • Yes, Larry’s death was such a shock to us all. Jeff had been living with a terminal diagnosis for a couple of years and he was the one on everybody’s mind. Losing Larry so suddenly and unexpectedly was a huge wakeup call not to take ANYONE for granted.

      I think you’re right about cemeteries. They are like the boundary between us and immortality or the unseen world, sort of like the cornfield in “Field of Dreams.” They are vivid reminders that the past was filled with people very much like us, in all the ways that really matter.

  2. Good morning, Julia! I had a fun and memorable timer visiting Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. It seems amazing to me that so many authors and famous people would all be buried so close together. That would be a fun place to imagine on Halloween!
    I wonder how well these neighbors would all get along, if they had a reunion?
    Love and blessings to you and Matt.

    • I imagine all those literary families would get along in a reunion much as they did in life. It’s not for nothing they were known as the “transcendentalists1” 😀

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