Small Things Considered

When a Haines facebook friend wrote - no more dying, okay? I knew exactly what she meant. Recently we have lost a lot of people for such a small place. Two well-loved elders died (basically) of old age-- former Southeast Fair director Harriet Jurgeleit and hard working Hotel Halsingland founder Hilma White. Ed Laperyi was a grandfather, but his death following a car accident was a shock. The former sawmill owner traded in his red suspenders for what I thought of as a Rat Pack vibe when he bought the Captain’s Choice Motel. Young Jeremy Hanes death was also unexpected, but he had serious health issues due to multiple handicaps, although his mind worked just fine. Once I saw Wayne Price, Jeremy’s stepfather, lift him gently out of his wheelchair during a potlatch and hold him in arms and dance with him, swaying and stepping to an ancient Tlingit song. Some of you may think I shouldn’t mention Stimee Boggs suicide, but I’m a mother and Stimee had one too, and my bet is that she wouldn’t want him left out because of the way he died. That eccentric southern kid had a lot of friends in Haines and Skagway-- Now comes word that Ed’s adult daughter, who was here for his funeral, has died suddenly, and American Legion stalwart Pat Murphy’s cancer has gotten the best of him.   

A few years back, a friend who had been sitting by the deathbed of her neighbor, said that she didn’t think Haines would survive that passing—The wave of grief, she said, would drown us. Then, I listed a page full of people whose deaths had left their close friends and family bereft and had changed this town forever. That’s life, and death, and you can’t have one without the other. It is odd that the only thing we know for sure is that we will die, yet each time it happens, even when the person is very old or terminally ill, death surprises us. I wish it wasn’t so final. That dead friends and family members stayed around a day or two to tie up loose ends. I have been missing people I didn’t get to properly say goodbye to for years.

I read that when the twin towers were on fire and the hi-jacked jets were hurtling toward sure crashes, the last words cried into all those cell phones were virtually the same--I love you. In the beginning, love creates us, and in the end, love is all we know. The priest at my mother’s funeral said death should shake us up. Each death, he said, should encourage us to better live the life we are lucky enough to still have. I know that is true, I just wish there were an easier way to learn it, don’t you?

 I wrote this essay (it was just broadcast on 9.12.12 at the end f the newscast) for KHNS as part of their new Small Things Considered feature-- basically it is short personal essays (350-500 words) on topical, local things, but not political (there is another forum for those commentaries)-- they can be funny, thoughtful, enlightening, heartfelt, or instructional-- small things  that you notice or think about and want to share with the community. Anyone in Haines, Skagway, or Klukwan may do one. They will run each week. If you'd like to submit an essay, call Margaret at KHNS, 766-2020 or 983-2853 for guidelines. Please do, or else I will have to. (I promised Margaret I'd make sure she didn't have dead air...)

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