"Hey Randy, I’m calling to let you know this is a great time to run up to the farm and catch all those big bass you have been catching and throwing back. The water in the lake is being drawn down and we want to get as many fish out as possible!”
That call signaled the beginning of the big shift – a shift from expecting many years of fishing trips, visits together on the farm and sharing of life as the husband of my aunt.
My aunt is six months my junior, the sister I never had, one who made my visits to the family farm as a kid and adult a cherished time for me. We have walked through life almost in lockstep. She was the smart one, the pretty one, and I never felt an ounce of jealousy — maybe only a little in our measuring contest when she gained an extra two inches on me.
I married first, and she followed in about a year, but she had the first child. Art and I had four to their two girls. The man she married was like her, interested in a million things: science, farming, woodworking, singing, teaching, cooking, and most of all, his wife and girls.
Over the years, Art and I came to appreciate that Randy was a great match for Carolyn, because he loved and respected her and was in perfect tune with her strong personality. I think his bass complemented her alto.
Now comes the shift. That call about fishing was met with “I am not doing so great right now, having a little trouble getting around, so I’ll tell my friend Mike to see if he can get over there. “
It wasn’t a month later that Art, I, and most of our family gathered in a little Methodist church in Many, Louisiana, to celebrate the life of this good man. The church was full; he had been one of those “community pillars,“ and the astonishment that he was gone registered on everyone’s faces and in the quiet conversations as we waited for this service to begin. It was a real celebration of a life well lived.
True to their style, Carolyn requested no purchased floral arrangements, only what could be cut from gardens all over town. Two of their friends received the flowers that morning at the church and arranged them in vases for the sanctuary, and for the social hall, where the family meal was served afterward.
Shifts in life happen to all of us, and death is the biggest. Now I am watching Carolyn to see how she navigates this one. Because of who she is, I know she will miss Randy every day for the rest of her life. I also expect her gaze to shift to the splendid things life still offers.
Goodbye for now, Randy. See you soon!