Along the Path

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Year

It's hard to believe it has been a year since we received the knock on the door from the police that they had found Dave's brother, Ron, dead and we needed to go identify him. In some ways it feels so much longer than a year and in others it feels like yesterday.

The memory of the day certainly feels like yesterday. It was our anniversary. We were in the kitchen getting ready to make an anniversary dinner. A warm summer evening. I received a call on the telephone from a bride. "Would you be interested in doing my wedding". As this is how many conversations with new brides begin it didn't seem unusual at all. "Sure, when is your wedding", I asked. "in two days". She replied. My mouth dropped a bit. Two days!! Not only was it only 2 days but one of those days was the 4th of July! She had the venue where the ceremony and reception would take place and had called a photographer. Everything else needed to be done. What the heck, I love a challenge :)

My head was spinning a bit after I got off the telephone with her with all that needed to be put in place, designed and planned. Actually, I was kind of looking forward to the challenge. Budget wasn't an issue, which made it so much easier. Since it was already about 5:30 and tomorrow was the 4th of July and everything would be closed I would try and contact the vendors whose home numbers I had and get things rolling. Just as I was explaining all of this to Dave we got a knock on the door.

It is amazing how your world can change in a blink of an eye.

I answered the door. It was a Stillwater Police Officer. I couldn't imagine what could be wrong. Dave was standing at the door with me by now. The officer asked if we knew a Mr. Ronald Toskey. At first the name didn't ring a bell. We couldn't think of a "Ronald". Then we realized it was Ron. Dave's brother. Yes, he is my brother Dave exclaimed. We were both puzzled. Then the officer began with "I'm sorry to have to tell you........". All I remember from that point is catching Dave's elbow as his body went limp and he nearly toppled over. My mind raced from one thought to another to becoming nearly blank. One thing I do clearly remember is thinking what an awful part of the job that is for that young officer. What a horrible thing to have to deliver such news to loved ones that are so unsuspecting. We went in the house. Grabbed the car keys and I drove Dave to Ron's house. On the way there he called his sister, who was at Menards, somewhat in the area. She would meet us there. When we arrived at Ron's we were met by two police officers and a gentleman who was pacing in the yard. He was a very good friend of Ron's and you could tell his mind was blank as well. Dave and I went in and went to Ron's bedroom where he was in bed. Dave's sister soon arrived and joined us. The air felt very thick and heavy and I needed something fresh. I went outside and joined the pacing friend in the yard. Dave joined me shortly. Gayle, Dave's sister, who is a nurse, stayed with Ron and the medical examiners who had now arrived. Shortly she came out as well.

The hardest part was watching them zip up the body bag. Your first thought is "don't do that.....he won't be able to breath". Everything goes in slow motion and time stands still. As I write this I can still hear the sound of the zipper. Feel the dirt beneath my sandaled feet and feel the still early summer night air.

I remember looking up at the hearse and Ron's body going inside. All the neighbors had gathered on the streets and there was no noise other than one woman crying "Ronnie" in the background. Gayle, Dave and I stood silent. Holding hands and slow tears trickling down our face.

Life is so fragile. A few hours before none of us, including Ron, knew this would be the next scene. One minute you are going about your life and the next.........leaving in a body bag. It truly happens that fast.

At that point, what really matters in life is burned into your perspective. What kind of house you were taken out of. What you were wearing. What kind of car you have in your garage. None of it matters.

What mattered to us at that moment was that someone dearly loved was gone and now we had to go tell his mother, his daughter and his grandchildren. Everything else. Insignificant. Beyond Insignificant.

Ron loved baseball and softball. He had spent his life either playing or umpiring. At Ron's funeral team after team after team filed past his casket. They left signed baseballs, softballs, bats and caps.

The room was full of young and old. He touched so many. He meant something different to everyone. Coach, umpire, teacher, friend, son and to us, a brother. To all......someone that would be deeply missed.

Of all the stories that were told about Ron, memories shared and tears cried....not once did what he have or not have come up. What did come up was the time he gave of himself to others, his laughter, sense of humor, care.

Among many things, that knock on the door re-opened my eyes to priorities. We are all reminded from time to time but some tend to forget or ignore entirely. Life is a gift and is not a matter of "if" but "when" it is going to be taken away. Live each and every moment of it as if it is your last.

It could be.Rest in Peace Ron. We miss you!

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