And Life Goes On …

A cold and rainy Sunday morning got a little colder when we heard the news that our good friend was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack. We contacted her daughter and were somewhat relieved to hear that though she was in ICU, she was stable and resting comfortably. That news was barely processed and digested when we read a text shortly after that one that told us she had just passed away.

As we work for a church, we had arrived that morning to attend worship and to take care of some of the things that we do as part of our jobs on Sunday morning. To be greeted with the news that Cindy had suffered a heart attack sent us reeling. At 9 AM that morning we heard the news. By 1 PM that same day as we were heading home, we were already planning her funeral.

About ten days before she passed, a group of six us, her and her husband included, had sat around our kitchen table and shared a meal together, followed by a hotly contested game of Aggravation. Boys vs. Girls. The girls won. Cindy sat on my left, and we verbally jabbed and poked at each other, she trying to tell if my game face attitude of “if you can’t win, suck the fun out of it for everyone else” was merely a ruse that I use to entertain, or if it is really how I feel. We laughed so hard that night about so many different things, it was great to have the warmth and glow of friendship permeating our house.

My mind takes me back to the game of Aggravation quite often, and I can still hear her laughing, all of us roaring and being silly about stuff that doesn’t matter, until that laughter echoes with pain at the thought of never hearing her laugh again. She could really uncork some great comebacks, but she would always follow them with a gentle “You know I’m kidding, right?” She always said it, and it was always unnecessary. She was nowhere near the snarkiest person in the room, as long as I am around.

The following Friday we celebrated her life and her memory with a funeral at our church. As I said, we work there, Cindy had worked there, too, until she retired about a year and a half ago. Retired as in no longer keeping regular office hours with us. She still maintained a bunch of different functions for us, on a volunteer basis, so we saw her pretty regularly. When a person that you love passes, there is a hole left behind. With Cindy, the hole is deeper, harder to get out of. She was not only a dear friend and great person, but she was also really good at what she did, and so there are multiple different ways to be reminded, continually of the loss that we have undergone. We have to find some other ways to accomplish all that she did for us, and no one will be able to do it the way that she did.

I read someone’s post on LinkedIn just the other day, about two young boys who were killed in a fire. I don’t know if life holds a more unfair, intense or debilitating stab through the heart than the loss of a child. My brother-in-law lost his only daughter, she was 18 years old, in a car accident a few years back, and the thought of it still grips my heart and makes me wince.

Life is hard. Life is short, life is temporary. Life is fleeting. And life goes on. My brother-in-law lost his daughter ten days before Christmas. And then you hear the people, who are lost and just trying to say something that matters, (when in truth nothing can be said that will matter in that moment): “oh, and she died at Christmas, too…” As if there is that perfect time of the year to bury one of your kids.

I’m having breakfast tomorrow with Cindy’s husband. We should have been doing this more often, but it’s something I want to do to maintain a connection with him. I don’t love Jerry less because he doesn’t have Cindy anymore, if anything, I love him more. We learn in difficult times, in tragic times, in times of loss, how much love matters. It always matters, we just spend too much time taking it for granted. When it’s taken away, we feel that intensity. I get to have breakfast with Jerry, and we’ll talk and laugh and maybe cry and I know it will be good. I’ve never had time with Jerry that I didn’t enjoy.

We’ll eat, we’ll talk, we’ll get up to pay the check, maybe argue about who will pay. I’ll head into work and be sick about the emptiness that he has to be feeling. I’ll tell everyone at work how he’s doing. He’ll head back to an empty house. Life will go on.

Last Saturday we sat around that same kitchen table with my parents. We shared a meal and talked about a lot of things. My parents are both 90 years old, so we have to talk louder and explain things more. That makes it hard for me, explaining things to my dad. He taught me about life, the world, how to make sense of things, how to appreciate reading, how to talk with people whom you disagree with and still make a deep connection.

He taught me about humor and never taking anything too seriously. And I find myself yelling at him across the table because he can’t hear as well anymore, and at 90, though he still has all of his faculties, it just takes him longer to process words and ideas. After I yell, I see the look of sadness in his eyes, as he’s frustrated at how long it takes him to sort things out. He was always so quick with a snappy comeback, that it’s hard for me to process that his sharp, agile mind can’t grasp things like he used to.

Some of that sadness is directed toward me, as well. I don’t get it, yet I feel some of the same things happening to me. I spent close to 30 years working in industrial settings, not always taking care of my hearing as I should have. I feel overwhelmed by technology, and at a loss to make sense of the world in which we now live. I’m still reeling from the loss of one friend. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a sibling, or a parent, or as many friends as my parents have certainly lost. Mom and Dad are high school sweethearts, so there is no way of estimating, after being married for 71 years, how many friends, good friends, dear friends, former neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances that they have lost.

It’s part of their routine now to go to funerals. It’s been a frequent part of my life too. Whatever you think or feel or believe about what happens after this life is something I could talk to you about, or encourage you to consider it differently. What has become crystal clear to me is that with me or without me, life goes on. Look around you, don’t dwell on it, but everyone you know, everyone that you see, will die at some point. Death is the great leveling force, no one get outs of here alive.

While you’re here, let’s turn down the volume on our discussions. Turn up the laughter. Have more breakfasts with friends. Have more patience with people, no matter their age. Have more game nights. Make those connections, listen to those stories, hug those people, live, laugh, love. Life goes on. It sucks to know that sometimes.

In the 18 days since we lost Cindy, it has gone on. It’ll go on without you too. It’s reassuring that life goes on. It’s as heavy as a wet blanket sometimes too. While you’re still sucking air, make it count, make it matter, make a difference. Take the trip, make the phone call, hold the hand, hug it out. Love like there is no tomorrow.

Tom Dietzler
Tom Dietzler
Lifelong, proud somewhat strident Wisconsinite, I love my state and love to sing its praises. A bon vivant and raconteur, lover of history, literature and good conversations. Laughter and music are salves that I frequently am applying to my soul. I have spent time (too much) in manufacturing and printing and have found great joy in my current position as director of operations at a large church in the same area where I grew up. Husband to Rhonda and father of two adult children Melanie and Zack, I’m the constant companion of my five-year-old Lab, Oliver, who is my muse to a lot of my stories. I’m a fan of deep conversation and my interests are in learning and gaining wisdom, so in the last few years I have become and less politically vocal, and hopefully more respectful and open-minded. Rhonda and I sold our home in 2018, bought a condo and have traveled a bit more, golfed a bit more and are enjoying life a bit more. If you take the time to get to know me, prepare yourself for an invite to the 30th state to join the union, a gem located in the upper Midwest, full of beautiful scenery formed by the glaciers, with lots of lakes and trees and gorgeous scenery, and the nicest people that you’d ever want to meet.
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Jeff Ikler
Jeff Ikler

Painful and beautiful, Tom. Thanks for the reminder.

Susan Rooks

Oh, boy, Tom — what a tough time for all of you. Such a sadness to lose anyone we love, and thank goodness for those who remain, physically here on planet earth with us still, and those we hold in our heart.

Your last few words sum this up beautifully: Love like there is no tomorrow.

Paula Goodman

Oh Tom, I’m sorry for this loss. It’s touching that you are able to convey to us who never knew Cindy, a beautiful depiction of who she was. It’s amazing that in a few words ones life can be portrayed of one to be honoured; as all should be. To also wonderful to be reminded, and we all do that life is precious and should be honoured while we have it. Thank you my friend!

Larry Tyler

Very sad. This makes us pause and reflect on how we love the ones close to us.

Maureen Nowicki
Maureen Nowicki

Dear Tom, I always feel how connected you are to your community and the people in it when you write. I am so sorry to hear about Cindy. I also take what you instilled about the preciousness of time that we have here to spend and be in it – truly in it with those that we love and surround ourselves with. To laugh, to hang out to, just enjoy each other in a game or two. This is why I head home once a month to try to see if some of those aspects can emerge – one of my favourite things is to give my Mom a gentle massage to offer that contact and connection – no talking required. Just lightness and memories before time runs out with those we love and are connected to us. My best to you and what you are doing with cindy’s husband and your own parents – life has taught you so much about compassion, caring, and connection.

Jonathan Solomon

A very poignant story Tom, and I can quite relate to such situations. Perhaps, during my humanitarian missions, I have seen just too many “funerals” and, as we minister to those who remain, we can only humbly acknowledge that God has shared these people with us for a “season, reason and purpose”, and has decided to call them back home. Losing a loved one doesn’t just disrupt a person’s life—it changes it forever.

We can celebrate their lives and their contribution to society and encourage each other.

Donna-Luisa Eversley
Donna-Luisa Eversley

Tom you said to turn up the laughter but Im holding back the tears as I read in a very public place.
Life is short and before we know it the people ww know and love are gone. The essence of relationships is in the time spent making memories together. Touching souls and bonding on earth is all up to us. Thank you for this??

Laura Mikolaitis

Tom, without a doubt, this is a beautiful, heartfelt, and candid piece. It resonates on so many levels. We’ve all experienced loss and the grief and the pain that accompanies it. I agree with you that life goes on, albeit differently, perhaps, than it did before.
Your point about making it matter and enjoying the here and now, hits home. My motto is live for today and make it count. Thank you for this lovely piece and for giving me a reason to stop, give pause, and be thankful for today and the people in my life.

Laura Staley

Okay. The tears are flowing, Tom. Thank you for this beautiful, heart twisting reminder to love, to live, to connect, to laugh about stupid stuff, to be there for and with people. I’m so sorry for your loss/pain/grieflove- of your dear friend, Cindy-always tough when the news comes as a shock. The death of beloved ones, treasured friends, family, a child-all powerful reminders of how short that dash is between those two dates of birth and death. Life does go on. All we are is Dust in the Wind-as Kansas plays on Spotify. Make the most of the dash and that dust! Many hugs to you, my dear friend! Thank you. I promise to live full out every single day for love, in service, with heart-opening gratitude.

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