Sep 152011

My telephone rang at 7 a.m. yesterday, which is never a good thing. Anybody who knows me well enough to call at that time of the morning also knows that I work late, and seldom wake up before 9 a.m., and 10 or 11 is not unheard of, depending on how well the words were flowing and how much writing I did the night before.

As soon as I picked up the phone and saw who was calling, I already knew what the message was. It was Peggy Cook, calling from Traverse City, Michigan to tell me that her husband, my cousin Terry, had lost his fight to cancer an hour earlier. Yeah, that’s a bad way to start the day. About the worst way I can think of.

Terry was two years younger to me, and pretty much my kid brother. He had polio as a child, which left him with a severe limp and some other challenges that he dealt with all of his life, but he never let it get him down. His mother and our grandmother, who lived with his family, smothered him when he was growing up, and would have loved to keep him in a hermetically sealed chamber. But as soon as he was old enough to make his own way in life, he was done with all of that. They may have considered him crippled, but not Terry. He always laughed at his problems, calling himself a gimp, and making the most of what life handed him.

From the time we were kids, I teased him mercilessly, always letting him know that no matter what the grownups thought, to me he was just another kid, and a weird looking one at that! 🙂 And just because we grew up, I never figured that was any reason to stop. But, it was never done to be mean, and Terry told me many times that he was always grateful that I always saw him as just another guy, and refused to play the cripple game with him.

We exchanged Christmas cards over the years, but had not seen each other in over 20 years, before Miss Terry and I stopped to visit Terry and his family after we became fulltime RVers. We spent a few days parked in their driveway, then left to go to an RV rally. A few weeks later, we returned, and it was during that visit that Miss Terry was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer. Terry and Peggy let us know that we were welcome to stay as long as we needed to, while Miss Terry underwent the months of hellish treatment necessary to save her life, and they were a great support system to us during that very bad time in our lives. Though they lived with modest means, they refused to accept one penny from us, even for the electric we used. We have retuned to their driveway ever since for Miss Terry’s follow up visits, first every three months, then every six months, and then annually. We were just there in early August for her checkup this year.

A couple of weeks after we left, we got the news that Terry was in the hospital. We knew he had not been feeling well, but none of us had any idea just how serious it was. After his diagnosis, we drove back to Traverse City for a short visit, and we were saddened to see how fast he had gone downhill.

Terry and I spent some time alone talking, and as all of our conversations were, it was open and honest. He knew what was coming, and was prepared for it. He said he wasn’t scared of dying, only of not being there for Peggy and their two grown children, Patrick and Michelle. And his good sense of humor never left him – when a nurse came in to put an oxygen mask on his face, I teased him and said if he didn’t get out of that damned bed and get back home, I was going to pinch the hose shut right then and there. It was the last good laugh we would share.

I hope when my time comes, I can face it with the same dignity and courage that Terry did. Rest in peace, little brother. And wherever you are walking today, I hope it is on two strong, healthy legs. I love you.

Thought For The Day – Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

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Nick Russell

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  24 Responses to “A Bad Way To Start The Day”

  1. Nick, I am so deeply sorry for your loss.

  2. I’m sorry for your loss. I wish there was something more I could do or say. I don’t hug much but, please, consider yourself hugged just now.

  3. Nick/Terry:
    My heart goes out to the both of you..
    I have finaly realized where you priority and sence of self lie…..
    To all of our lost friends….. God bless them all.

  4. Carla and my prayers are with you and your family.

  5. I too am so sorry for your loss, it is so hard to lose someone that close. He sounds like a great guy and friend. I’m so glad you guys got to see him recently.

  6. So sorry for your loss, Nick and Terry. But you have lots of fond memories to remember him by.

  7. I am so sorry for you loss. I’ve said a little prayer for Terry and your family. God Bless.

  8. Nick and Terry,
    I’m sorry for your loss. May peace and hope help to ease the hurt in your hearts.

  9. So sorry for your loss, cherish all the memories!!

  10. Nick,

    Few of us are so fortunate to have a friend like Terry and for Terry to have a true friend like you. My condolences.

  11. Tommy and I know of your loss and the hurt that you and Terry have for someone that has known you since…. Condolences to you.

  12. We’re so glad you got to see him and say goodbye before it was too late…a very difficult loss for you both. So sorry to hear of his passing and prayers to you both….Take care….

  13. Condolences. I’m glad you got to see him before the end.

  14. We are so sorry for you loss,we know how close the two you were, He is now in the arms of our lord and is at peace. If there is anything we can do please let us know.

  15. So very well said Nick–may all those memories bring you comfort.

  16. So sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you and Miss Terry and with Peggy and the family. May you all be comforted in the coming days with the good memories you have of your “little brother”.

  17. Nick, you have outdone yourself. Through your post we know Terry and can sense your sorrow. If they gave Pulitzers for blogs this would be a worthy candidate.

  18. My heart hurts for you and all of those who mourn your sweet cousin today.

  19. Terry lives on in your heart, and because of you, his courageous example lives on in your readers’, too.

  20. What a wonderful tribute to Terry and to your friendship over the years, Nick. We are deeply sorry for your loss and hope that the memories of times spent with Terry will be a comfort to you. Connie & Dave

  21. And that’s what makes the RV lifestyle so wonderful. You had over the years the change to visit them and at the end your were able to visit one last time. Much love and you all are in our positive thoughts and prayers. Hugs, Peter & Connie B.

  22. So sorry for your loss.

  23. Condolences, Nick. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  24. I think that the hardest part of life is losing a good friend or relative. Our thoughts are with you guys. Ed & Stevi

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