Tomorrow, August 9th, would have been Glenn Evans Derby's 70th birthday. The milestone left him perplexed, I think. He loved his life, and he was so full of anticipation and hope for the future that was in front of him with the church, and with our life together as empty-nesters. And yet, I know he heard the clock ticking louder with each passing year.
It was too soon, for all he still wanted to accomplish. And yet, while he was with us, what a life he lived! How do I adequately celebrate with you the gift that was my husband?
"8-9-43"- the date rolled off his tongue so many times as pharmacists, doctors and insurance agents asked his birthdate. He had a way of saying it so that it sounded like one big date. :) eightninefortythree. He loved his name. I remember thinking when he told me that how rare that it was- most people have a complaint about their name.
He was so proud of his life. He lived everyday. Everyday. For the last few months before he died, for some reason, he felt a need to write out the timelines of his life-houses, jobs, dogs, etc.. And they were so full! It was as if he wanted to remember every detail of his life as a preppy, a businessman, a ranch hand, a coach, a teacher and finally a priest. He experienced more careers and living in one life than some people do in three or four lives. We took many road trips during our marriage and I heard so many stories. And sometimes we revisited the places of his memories. I'm so glad that we did. He celebrated every experience, and he told me many times how lucky he felt to have had such a great life. Wow....how many can say that?
I am not creating St. Glenn, as people are inclined to do when they have lost someone dear to them. Glenn was not perfect, indeed which one of us is, but I can tell you this. He loved being a father and grandfather more than any other role in his life. Was he perfect at these roles? No. No one is. We are all flawed, even with the people we love so much. This spring there was some early planning of a reunion with all the children to celebrate his big birthday. He asked me on the night that he would die, as we chatted on the porch, whether I thought that the event would happen. I answered that I believed that they all loved him and would come if they possibly could. Little did we know at that moment, that they would all gather six days later for his funeral.
With the eensiest bit of hindsight I'm starting to possess, I can now see that Glenn wasn't as healthy recently as he was even a year ago. He didn't have a lot of stamina, and I had begun to notice how often he wanted me to drive. There was a vitality that was slowly seeping away. He fought hard to get it back most days, but he felt himself aging, and he didn't like it at all. He kept looking for a way to fix it.
Shortly after he died, my friend Misty ventured out with a theory, knowing that it was either going to bring me peace, or upset me. She took the risk. Knowing that we were dog people, she proposed that Glenn's relatively premature death was comparable to the life spans of big dogs vs. little dogs. You buy a large breed dog, knowing their life span isn't as long as a toy poodle, She pointed out to me that you don't see a lot of people in their '80s who were the size of Glenn. She spoke my language. I could get my head around that reasoning and it still brings me peace.
My friend Sandy, a science teacher, made the analogy that Glenn's life was like a giant blue star- a particular kind of huge star that burns very intensely and brightly and then burns out before the other less bright stars. So visual to me.Again...comforting.
I am reflecting tonight because tomorrow promises to be a busy day, full of celebration as I gather with my children and grandchildren to go to a preseason Vikings football game. After much soul searching as to how to mark the date, it came up like a beacon in my daughter Emily's mind. Who liked football more than Glenn? He never showed a lot of team loyalty, he just loved the game.
There is a Jewish salutation that is used as a toast-...L'chaim-it means...TO LIFE.
Here's to you Glenn Evans Derby. L'chaim. Happy birthday. I will love you forever.