Jim Morrison wrote that “Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as raven’s claws.” What he meant was that when someone dies, that person suddenly becomes a saint. Maybe it’s the old superstition that it’s not wise to speak ill of the dead, or maybe it’s just that those who loved that person didn’t care about his or her faults. I, for one, expect whoever’s left when I’m dead to get up and tell the truth. If you say “I loved life” and was “the sweetest person who ever lived” I will haunt you.
That said, one of my high school classmates, Kimberly (Scozzafava) Salmon, passed away yesterday. I didn’t know her as well as many others did, but I can honestly say she WAS one of those people who should be remembered as someone who loved her life—even though she faced more incomprehensible, massive struggles than most people I know—and truly was one of the sweetest people who ever lived.
Every time I saw a Facebook post in which she was facing a new challenge, she was positive and cheerful. And yeah—you can say all you want about how we “curate” ourselves online, but that just wasn’t the case with her. That kind of fake curating you can see in a person’s eyes if you look hard enough. Her eyes were never sad or angry in those photos. Her eyes, no matter what, even in hospital pictures, were full of mischievous spirit, a rare joy. She impressed me, and it was always a reminder that I have absolutely nothing to bitch about. Anytime I needed a good wake-up call because I was whining about something lame—particularly a minor health issue—I went over to her page and was given my lesson on grace, dignity, and gratitude.
My only regret is that I didn’t really get to know her better, but I did know her well enough to understand that she really was grateful for her life. She loved her children, she was thrilled to be a grandmother, and she loved people. She loved being with people. Genuinely. And after one minute in her presence, you were no longer a stranger—you were loved.
She is now at peace in heaven, but her sons have indicated there is no money for a funeral—let alone laying her to rest in a pink casket, which was one of her last wishes. If that’s what she wanted, then that’s what she should have. If any of my readers, on this Easter weekend, feels called to help, here is the GoFundMe page: https://gofund.me/6f43d9a6
Thanks, Kim. I’ll raise a glass with you again when I get to the other side.
Earlier this year, I saw the play Talk Radio. One of the lines in the play (paraphrasing, I just don’t have that sharp a memory): “There is a difference between a brave man and a coward. Both feel fear. The difference is that a coward runs away. A brave man runs toward it.”
I thought about that today during New Milford’s Memorial Day Parade. My Dad was in the Navy, serving aboard the USS Independence during the Cuban Missile Crisis as part of squadron VF-84’s “ground” crew (see the documentation on this here: http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq90-3.htm#anchor156376). I remember him telling me that the day he saw all of those ships on the horizon he said to himself, “I stood there and thought, ‘I’m going to die today.’ I decided I was okay with that, and then I lit up a cigarette waited for orders.”
The raw courage of those words didn’t really strike me until this morning, when I had the privilege of going up to see Nathan, who is a Mason, march with his lodge—St. Peter’s Masonic Lodge No. 21 of New Milford, CT—in New Milford’s Memorial Day Parade (last year he got to ride his motorcycle as part of the Mason’s Widow’s Sons, but the rain this morning made them bag that this time around). There were all sorts of other brave men who turned out to honor our veterans—firemen, police officers, ambulance crews. Most of them spend their lives running toward danger every day, and I’m sure many of them don’t even think twice.
I hope that no matter what you do today—be it a picnic or a parade or just being with the ones you love—that you’ll take a minute to marvel at the courage of so many people in our world who run toward things, and not away from them.
FOOTAGE FROM TODAY’S PARADE
I’m a sucker for bagpipes, especially in a parade. Earlier, he played my favorite piece–“Amazing Grace.” But since it was my Dad’s favorite, too, I was too lost in the moment to film it.
Nathan marches during the first leg of the parade. He’s the one who does a quick pivot as he rounds the corner.
The rest of the St. Peter’s contingent.
Nathan marches with the Lodge during the second leg of the parade. They had actually taken a wrong turn and were still laughing about it.