Sunday, December 21, 2008

Grandpa Ray

My Grandpa passed away early this afternoon. Mom had visited him this morning, and, although he was more tired than normal, there was no reason to suspect today above any other day that Grandpa would be going Home. After lunch, the nursing staff was transferring him from wheel chair into his recliner in his room, when he slipped away. No pain, just closed his eyes, and by the time the nurse arrived he was on his way to heaven.

Mom got the phone call from Martin Luther Manor minutes later, and then called me. This was not a phone call I was expecting today. Minutes previous, I’d been cleaning in my office, sorting through papers, finding numerous items to pass back to Mom and Dad to deal with or recycle; as I was sorting, in retrospect at near the exact minute Grandpa died, I noticed a picture of Grandma and Grandpa by my desk, and had taken a minute to look at it, pondering if I could put it someplace more prominent.

We later found out other relatives, too, had been thinking of Grandpa this morning, wrapping presents to ship to him for Christmas, or writing cards, etc. Though our family was not physically at his side when he passed, Grandpa was being thought of all morning.

It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.

That’s a quote from one of the Lemony Snicket books. I think it aptly describes the feeling when you’ve first been told someone has died. It’s surreal, you ask, “Wait, what? Can that really be?” My first reaction was, ‘quick, find shoes and socks - I don’t know yet where I need to go, but I know I’m driving somewhere.’ For the best, my rational side retains enough control in the midst of emotional chaos to allow me to process logistics and not panic. Mom and I hung up, I finished getting dressed, updated my Facebook status, and sent a brief email to my closest friends and coworkers; I can have my emotional breakdown later, right now the most important thing is to get the word out, something at which computers in our flat world (Thomas Friedman) are quite proficient. More specifically, I knew this was a time I needed to “summon the troops”, or rather, the prayer-warriors. Literally within minutes of emailing and Facebooking, I’d already received several text and FB messages of support and condolence, as well as promised prayer. (Other friends called, texted, and mailed throughout the day, for which I am so absolutely grateful; they really helped lift me up.)

Personally I had hoped Grandpa’s death would have been timed out like Grandma Sue’s - we had five days to vigil after she began “actively dying”, time enough to gather the family and get people in from out of town. Today we had no warning at all. On the other hand, Grandpa went through his normal routine this morning, breakfast, nap, nursing home activity, lunch, and then just went to sleep. That’s about as peaceful as anyone could hope for.

With Christmas later this week, along with the ginormous snowstorm that crossed Minnesota today, and with literally everyone in the family (except Mom and Dad and I) out of town right now, logistics of funeral scheduling look very different from the previous two funerals we’ve planned; in those cases, things had to be planned very quickly, because the funeral itself was mere days away. This time we’re delaying a week until after Christmas, until everyone can [hopefully] get here. It’ll also give me time to clean my house in case out of town relatives need my hide-a-bed and/or couches.

Now begins the grief process. Already I’m feeling that burden of guilt, “I could have visited more, I could have sent more cards, I never played my guitar for him, I never showed him Harry Putter 1, I hardly ever spent time with him, and now I can’t.” My best friend encouraged me that it’s not healthy to dwell on those thoughts, but they still haunt me, and I suppose they will for a while. On the other hand, I can choose to look on the positive side. I did visit sometimes, I did mail him cards every month to say hello, I did have a relationship with Grandpa while he was still alive, and once I have a chance to process, I know I still have those memories of him to hold on to.

Though it’s hard to lose someone, especially right before Christmas (or any major holiday), our family is resting in the knowledge that this will be the happiest Christmas of Grandpa’s life - not only does he get to celebrate with Jesus, he’s dancing with Grandma again, his mind is sharp again, and there’s no more wheelchair!! Sure, there could be some theological discussion about when resurrection happens, but I choose to believe it’s immediate; (please bear with me as I mix together lyrics from several songs) Grandpa’s spirit flew away from Earth and ran right into God’s wide open arms, and he heard a Voice that said, “Welcome home, my good and faithful servant.”

I love you, Grandpa, and I miss you.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dorothy Martineau

You can find anyone and everyone on the Internet in today’s day and age, right?

Unfortunately, no. In fact, Facebook, and even the almighty Google, have both failed to dramatically further my quest to reconnect with my friend and former classmate from 9th grade, Dorothy Martineau. After encouragement from my Mom, I write this blog post with hopes and prayers that Dorothy, or perhaps another acquaintance, may stumble upon it and help end my search. It’s not a life and death emergency, really I just want to know whatever happened to her. In my one year at North High School I could literally count on one hand the number of fellow students there I truly considered friends. Of the two I’d still like to be in contact with, Nate is on Facebook, so, despite the fact that we don’t really ever message each other, the fact of the matter is that I know he’s still alive and doing well, and if either of us wanted to reconnect, we’re only a couple clicks away.

Dorothy I have no clue.

Dorothy and I graduated 8th grade from Anne Sullivan Communication Center in South Minneapolis in June 2000. (Notice how I’m stuffing in as many search-engine-friendly keywords as possible :) From there, we were two of three Sullivan students who went to North High School in North Minneapolis. I didn’t really know her in middle school, but on our first day at North, when all the freshmen were doing orientation things, we somehow found each other and became friends. We also rode the same bus, I’m sure that might have helped (this was eight years ago, mind you, so my memory is a little swiss-cheesed by now).

Anyway, there’s one memory that I have held on to ever since 9th grade, something Dorothy said that has literally shaped who I am, and continues to do so today. One day, we were riding home on the school bus, and for some reason we were talking about youth groups at church. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, all I remember is Dorothy telling me “You know, I’m really glad that someone else cool still goes to church.”

That’s powerful. And not just because someone thought I was cool (although that’s pretty neat, too, since, well, “cool” hasn’t traditionally been an adjective people use to describe me...). But seriously, for her as a 9th grader to already see how faith sets us apart from “the world,” and how that actually makes a difference in the way we live, as well as the fact that I must have been doing something right to actually be living that life... Wow. Words won’t do it justice here, but that is by far one of my fondest memories of my entire life.

So I want to find her, I want to find out what’s happened in these last seven years.
  • She’s not on Facebook, or, if she is, her profile is completely hidden from searches (some people do that, weird, but true), and she does not show up in queries for North High School class of 2004

  • She’s not on (not too surprising, few people our age are)

  • Google searches for her name return relatively little, just two publications of North’s Polaris newspaper, on which Dorothy was apparently a page editor during her senior year

  • The North Alumni association person does not have any contact information, though she was able to confirm for me that Dorothy did graduate in 2004

  • Minneapolis Public Schools is unable to release any information from past students’ records

  • I have already tried asking our mutual friend Nate (from North, also ’04), but he did not have any contact info, either

  • The yearbook from my freshman year only has teacher signatures, no students, so despite my hopes before unearthing it, no magic phone number there either

  • I’m reasonably certain the Dorothy Martineau listed on this page is her (the age would be correct), but that doesn’t really help much

  • There’s a non-profit foundation’s tax-return document from 2004 on Google that I’m not going to link, but it references a scholarship Dorothy received, must have been upon graduating, it wasn’t super clear
That’s it. If you reading this know anything I don’t, please let me know! I’m one of the easiest people to find electronically that I know: message me on Facebook, send me an email, or just post a comment here.

In further researching the tax return mentioned above, it is indeed talking about scholarships granted to seniors from North High who will be attending a two- or four-year college within Minnesota or a state with whom we have reciprocity (Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, and one or two colleges in Iowa). So, presumably, Dorothy did indeed go to college in one of these four states.