Friday, April 24, 2009

A Master Class In Real

Here at Your Mother Knows, I've made it my challenge and goal to form a clutch of spirits who are curious and intrepid enough to work toward being Real.

And, through my work and this community, I will learn more than I know right now. What follows in this post is a Master Class in being a Real Human Being. I hope it speaks to you as much as it moved me:

Ours is a young neighborhood. A small one by many standards. It's becoming a great neighborhood. Relationships are beginning to cement. Neighbors are becoming friends. It's young enough to still be full of construction trucks and hub-bub. Old enough, now, to have sadness mixed in.

On Wednesday our neighbor, Bob, finally gave up his heroic, honorable battle to live. His best friend and wife of 56 years, Kathy, and her family are doing remarkably well considering how much Bob, or as they call him, 'Poppie', means to them. And, how big a hole Bob's death leaves in their hearts.

Bob & Kathy are members of one of those remarkable tribes. You know what I mean, a family and extended group that really like each other and pretty much get along. There's always family coming and going from a visit, or to help with something, or simply rest for awhile in the embrace of Kathy & Bob. It's a nice thing. Sometimes a thing for the rest of us to wonder about and even envy. So few of us actually have that familial luxury.

What's been sad, is that almost from the moment of moving into our neighborhood, Bob has been in the battle of his life. It started out being something pretty straight-forward, the need for open heart surgery. While that's a pretty big deal, it's becoming blessedly usual and do-able in today's medical world.

However, the infection that he got from his hospital stay is the culprit that began this two and a half year struggle for survival. That infection and the attempts to stop it threw him into kidney failure. That's when the battle became a war. His downward spiral had momentary stops of hope, where we would see stabilization and rejoice. But, a spiral is a spiral after all.

The Master Class today is about the spots of hope. Because that's where the story of Bob actually rests. In those moments, when he was feeling himself...he'd be our good neighbor. Join us at functions; be a vital part of our parties. It was wonderful to see him, 'holding court' with all of us coming and going and sitting with him to share a joke and a chat. It was great to see his BF, Kathy enjoying moments of fun which momentarily erased the lines of concern that were growing. She worked so hard to care for her Fella. We loved having them both with us.

Bob loved hugs. Gave great ones. Had a sweet smile that he shared easily and quickly. Very affable; loved to talk. It was a good thing to sit with him. You felt his joy of life. He was able to infect you with it by being with him. A wonderful man. A wonderful woman. Still able to laugh and laugh often...even though life for both was becoming increasingly hard.

Each time Bob ended back in the hospital, those of us with houses close by would hold our breath. Others in the community always inquired, "How's Bob? Please let him know we're thinking of him." It's the best most of us can do in situations like this.

Yesterday, Michael and I had the sad task of going to the funeral home to say our goodbyes to our good neighbor and lend support to Kathy and her family. Neighbor, Marian, went with us. We expected that there'd be a great many people there. There were, even though the visitation was only minutes old by the time we arrived.

And, pictures...everywhere. Picture boards of Poppie and his beloved Foster clan. Pictures of a life well lived. Pictures of a young bride and groom; of a stiff young Marine in his dress uniform; countless pictures of Bob holding a baby bundle. Pictures of the most mundane things, but when viewed from that many angles, truly amazing.

We didn't stay long. We gave Kathy our open promise that we're just a few houses away and ready to help should she need us. We hugged. She moved on to the many, many others waiting to offer their faint hope of comfort. I say, faint, because really, what does one say or do? None of us can really comprehend how she must be hurting. Imagine being happily married for 56 years and wondering what life will be like going forward. The answer is, you can't really. So, you show up. You offer the support of your presence. That's all you can do.

On our way out, Michael signed the guest book. I picked up the memorial card. Sometimes I do, often I don't. But I was compelled because of a note that hung over them which read, "We hope you'll take one of these cards as it contains one of Bob's favorite quotes." When Michael and I read it in the car, it moved us to tears. So, I share it with you:

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melodie Beattie

And, on the other side of this inspirational card-

Dear Friend:
Thank you for inviting me into your life. It was fun, and my gratitude fits into Melodie Beattie's words.

I think mot of us strive for perfection but never attain it due to our human frailties. We can and must find a comfort zone within our own bodies to enjoy the peace that can be ours. I must tell you that, perhaps, peace and joy can be found by sharing your gratitude with all you encounter.

You enriched my life. Always dare to be yourself. Be grateful. Invite strangers into your life. Build happy memories with others. Laugh and share the joy that we knew together.

Thanks for the memories!

What a wondrously glorious Human Being. Imagine loving life so very much that in your leaving, you continue to express how wonderful it all is. Even your death. Even your end... Being grateful for it ALL. Wanting to help those of us who remain as you go. Taking the time to express your gratitude for all that we've meant, no matter how small or large the encounter. Thank us?

No sir, thank You! It's been an honor and privilege to know you. And, my quest to be a Real Human Being has been furthered by the grace and gift of your example. Thank you Bob Poppie Foster.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Your Neighbor & Student


Eileen said...

Thank you Holly for sharing Bob and Kathy's story ... the courage and strength they showed during the most difficult of days was fed everyday by their love and gratitude. Very inspiring ... and a lesson for us all.

beth said...

what a wonderful story...and that poppie sounds just like my dad and I'm assuming someday...hopefully years and years from now...there will only be standing room at his funeral as he is loved by so many and has never met a stranger...

mom says that I inherited that gene of his...and I know I did and am blessed because of it !!

and that quote....amazing !!

sema said...

Holly,reading this post brought memories of my mother who was a special person.I would love to share my post about her with you

blessings for abundance

Journey Wildly said...

Oh, Holly...

What a legacy!! A life well-loved, well-lived, indeed! My heart aches for Kathy. I am going to hug my best friend a little tighter with this love story in mind.

Thank you for sharing Bob with us.

Bob, blessings to you and peace & comfort in the days to come to your family.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing that post! As someone who lost both parents to cancer only two years apart, I was sincerely blessed by your words, and coincidentally, my father's name was Bob. My parents were also best friends. That in itself, along with so many other reasons, is a great legacy not only to me and my family, but anyone who knew them. Isn't it wonderful to have such great examples in our lives? Again, thanks for sharing their story.

cinner said...

Holly, thankyou for telling us about Bob and Kathy.I just had myself a little cry and the memory of Bob lives on through your words.He definately sounds like he was a wonderful man.

Anonymous said...

First off I would like to say thank you for writing such nice words about my Grandfather and friend Poppie. Just a little background on me: My Name is Robert W Foster, I’m the oldest son of Robert H Foster Jr. “Poppie’s” oldest son. My Mom & Dad moved to Florida when I was almost four years old and I didn’t get to spend as much time with my family in Pittsburg as the other grandkids, but as you all know Poppie was a unique man. He always had great advice with a twist of humor and I’m grateful of the time I did get with him.
On a recent trip to Pittsburg I had the opportunity of sitting in the car and having a great talk with Poppie while my Dad was getting his hair cut at a local barber shop. Poppie told me that his life was his family and that he never had a hobby or other interest that would take time away from him and his family. He said that in the end your family will be there for you.
I have two amazing little boys Robert “Lane” Foster (8) and Reed H Foster (7) who were Poppies only Great grandchildren. Lane is the fourth generation Robert Foster and both of my boys had the opportunity to spend time with Poppie two weeks before he passed away.
Poppie told me something when I was in my 20’s that made me take a different outlook on life and death. He said that we all live forever. I kept waiting for the punch line of the joke, but it was no joke at all. He said his cells were carried on to his son and then carried on to me and when I have kids they will too have some of his good looks, thoughts, actions and sense of humor.
Every time I look into my boys eyes I see a great man!
Thank you,
Robert W Foster

Holly said...

I am so glad that you left such a great comment on this post. It is a wonderful thing to be able to realize that what is true and good about every Human Being never passes into nothingness. Your Grand Poppie was a grand man, indeed. And, I'm certain, that you are too, thanks to his stellar example.

Kathy said...

Thank you so much for the beautiful tribute to my brother. He was a wonderful person and a very loving and caring brother. Today (May 4th, 2009) would be his 78th, he is especially in my thoughts today. I just talked with Kathleen. She is a strength for all of us, even in her own grief. We (my sister, Janet and my brother, Ron and our spouses) were all to be together to celebrate Bob's birthday today.
Well, our reunion just came a little earlier; with sadness for not being able to laugh and joke with Bob as we had planned. Bob was thirteen years older and always looked after me...he was not only my brother, but also a father. His advice to me was always given with love and honesty and I have tried to follow it. He holds a very special place in our family's hearts and his humour and puns will be carried on. Kathleen is a very dear sister and she has been truly amazing in her loving and dedicated care of Bob. We don't know how she did it all: but, as she said, she couldn't have without the help of their children. Thank you again for writing, it has touched many hearts. Love you, Bob....your sister, Kathy

Holly said...

Your brother was blessed to have two fabulous Kathies in his life! I can only imagine how much you miss your brother. It was my pleasure to honor him in my writing. It's the very least I could do for such a great man. I hope you'll be a regular visitor here at Your Mother Knows, and thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment with all of us!

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