Monday, March 21, 2016

My friend Donald

 It’s amazing how quickly time passes sometimes.  

If you made it through my last blog posted back in January, you are aware of my Kentucky buddy, Donald Brown.  When the snow got deep and my power went out, Donald invited me to stay with him for the duration of the outage.  During that time we got to watch University of Kentucky basketball on television which was, frankly, the highlight of that weekend.  Hanging out with various members of his family who came to tend him in his illness was special, too. 

But by February’s end, my sequester was up and back home I had to go.  Before I headed north, I stopped in to see Donald and his daytime caregiver, Betty.  He was having a good lunch that she fixed and I heard another couple stories of how life in the Kentucky hills was for them growing up.  

I told Donald I hoped to be back sometime in the spring to help with some yard work at the Lakeview house.  But as I bid both goodbye and closed the front door, I wondered if that would be the last time I would get to shake his hand.  

Indeed, it was.  

Just a week after I got home, Cindy Lou and I traveled to New Orleans to be with family as her sister, Anita Cooke, celebrated the opening of her gallery show at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery on Julia Street.  As we drove through Louisville, the town where Donald had withstood his cancer treatment regimen, my thoughts were with him and I gave him a call on my cell phone.  No answer.  Concern?  Surely.  But I also know he has doctor’s visits that gets him out of the house on occasion, so I tried not to worry.  

When I called again a few days later and still got no response, I was more concerned.  I then shot a text to our mutual friend, Shannon, thinking she would know more.  She did, indeed.  Just a few days after I left, Donald complained of unusual stomach pains.  Turns out when he left for that emergency room visit, he would never make it back home.  

Donald Brown died Wednesday, 16 March, just hours following his transport back from Louisville to a hospice in his hometown of Monticello, Kentucky.  We buried him last Saturday.  The family invited me to read a new poem I wrote for the occasion.  I offer it to you today.   


for Donald Brown

Last evening as I sat on my back porch
under a warm, cloudless March gloaming
for my first Nature watch at Wild Grace this year

I wondered what last Earth sounds
my friend Donald was aware of —
  he who 
had just been transferred from hospital to hospice
in his personal battle with nastiness. 

I thought how much I wanted to share 
those late day moments of the earliest Spring
with robin and wren singing their hearts out
while chickadee and woodpecker finished their day 
feeding on sunflowers and peanuts just above my head. 

‘Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul - ’
  wrote my Emily. 

I couldn’t help thinking what a good time to die it was — 
in the early spring in Kentucky with daffodils popping 
and the willow’s green leaf haze and white pear blossoms erupting — 
not just promise, but the Truth of Love and Life —

such a time in space 
to release a faithful Soul to take 
his place in the eternal circle of All.

Today’s elder idea:   
When we love, we have, at most, this:
to let each other go; for holding on 
comes easily, we don't have to learn it.

Rainer Maria Rilke

images:  Donald on his Massimo 4-wheeler, checking on me during a snow in winter 2015; the flower spray on his casket.  Look carefully for the deer in the middle of the spray.  :-)

For more on Anita Cooke’s amazing work, see: