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Losing Loved Ones

By Joe Rector

Some weeks are rougher than others. The bad ones take a toll on us both physically and emotionally. Sometimes it’s work that causes us ill; at other times, it’s money concerns that drive us into funks. For me, death has been at to root of my low mood. Three of them occurred in the week, each different but all stingingly painful.

Willie Ruth passed after a long, full life. She was on the north side of 90; for the last ten years or so, she’d been in assisted living or nursing home settings. Her family was with her every day, and they made sure she was comfortable. Willie Ruth was a woman who was particular. She had a way of doing things and a place for everything. During her funeral, the minister discussed how he’d tried to move a picture for her to a correct spot. After several attempts, she finally told him to forget it. During her life, her home was always clean as a whistle; you know that kind of house that is so spotless that eating off the floors wouldn’t be a bad experience.

Willie Ruth lost her husband years ago. She was left with her daughter Melinda in Georgia. Before long, she moved back to Cookeville where her husband’s family lived. She fit right in and became a frequent guest at holiday meals and festivities. Melinda and her husband Howard gave her a granddaughter whom she adored; the feeling was mutual, and Sarah visited her often and spent time loving her and just being there.

The sting of her loss is tempered by the fact that she’d been in declining health for several years, and the last 10 days of her time weren’t pleasant for her or family. A sense of relief that she wouldn’t suffer anymore came, and although mother/grandmother/friend will be missed, folks are happy for her return to the loving arms of a God who loves her.

Wayne Perryman was a high school friend of mine. I still can close my eyes and watch him play linebacker and running back. He was a muscular, tough guy who delivered hits with bad intentions to players on the other side of the ball. Wayne went on to play ball at Furman before finally arriving home.

His smile brightened rooms and his laugh was infectious. Wayne enjoyed life and took an active role in it. He never met a stranger and went out of his way to make any person feel comfortable. His politics were conservative, and I used to tweak him through Facebook with “liberal” comments that led him into a diatribe that lasted for days.

Wayne’s younger brother Steve died in a car accident when he was in high school. It was an event from which Wayne never recovered. He battled that loss with all sorts of things, but still, the loss gnawed at his soul.

Not long ago, he lost his job, and that began a downward spiral for Wayne. Friends have speculated that work was his way of connecting with a world for companionship and friendship. Without it, he was alone. Demons from the past were resurrected, and before long, the low was too deep to escape. Wayne must have felt his only relief would come through ending his time here.

We friends failed Wayne Perryman. We should have better read the signs so that we could have offered him the help and connection he so craved. I hope we all will do better from now on.

Bruce Roach equaled my father-in-law Vaden Netherton in being a good person. He was a quiet man who stood in the background. Bruce wasn’t much for crowds and preferred to spend time at home. However, that didn’t mean he ignored others. Bruce always looked for ways to help folks. He’d lend a hand to anyone who was in need. He took over one sister-in-law’s finances when her health began to fail. Bruce never took a dime and never expected even a simple thank-you. Like Vaden, Bruce didn’t speak ill of others. Instead, he tried to understand why an individual acted badly and he was quick to speak up that “perhaps he/she was going through something we don’t know about.” In so many ways, he was a true hero.

His wife Frances and two sons, Tim and Scott, were stunned when he died without warning. Even then, he was on an errand at a cousin’s house when he passed. The pain of knowing saying goodbye to a husband and father is almost unbearable, but maybe the outpouring of love for Bruce by the many people who knew him will in some way be a balm for the wound.

Death is a part of our existences, something none of us will escape. It comes in many ways, but the impact on those of us left behind is always immense. For Willie Ruth, Wayne, Bruce, and all others, I pray for a sense of peace and a joy of a new life. Rest well.

 

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