Today I sit down to write a tribute to my dear friend Ed Reynolds. I did not plan on writing about loss today, however this article is calling me to write it. My thoughts are swirling around and I am not able to complete any chores or even go on my daily walk. This is my priority today, on the day we pay tribute to and bury this honorable man. Ed was buried with full military honors at the National Cemetery in Bourne. A beautiful tribute to a dear neighbor who touched my life, and the lives of many others.
I met Ed and Irene in 1996 when my husband and I purchased our first home together on Covey Drive in Yarmouthport. It was a simple house under bank ownership but situated in an adorable neighborhood full of friendly people. What the house lacked in aesthetics, the neighbors made up for in kindness. Houses can be fixed up, people often times cannot. So that became our first home where we would start our family twenty years ago.
Ed and Irene were a sweet older couple who never had children of their own. I believe that certain people are brought into your life for a reason, and I was truly blessed that Ed and Irene fell into that category. They entered my life at a pivotal time. My mother was in the late stages of her cancer and would soon succumb to her battle. Irene became a mother figure offering her support and compassion. She showed kindness in the most simple ways... ways that had a huge impact on my life.
Each day, Ed and Irene would pay me a visit at 3:00 in the afternoon to take my daughter molly for a walk in the stroller. At the time I was pregnant with my second child and really needed the break. Like really needed the break! I became pregnant with Maggie, our second child, just 4 months after giving birth to Molly. I was exhausted, hormonal and I missed my mother deeply at that time. That thirty minute daily break became my life saver. Not only did I look forward to it for self care reasons, but Molly would be loved and cared for deeply by this wonderful couple. To this day, I believe that God brought them into my life, yet at the same time, he brought us into theirs, for similar reasons. Their grandparent instincts kicked right in, and they cherished their time with my children. For that I am forever grateful.
Life goes by so quickly, and today is one of those moments where the memories flood my mind. I find myself laughing and crying all at once. I am emotionally exhausted, yet all I feel is love for having known them.
I thought today I would feel differently, badly, because I have a confession to make.
Although I sit on the Board of Directors for Flower Angels. A beautiful nonprofit who's sole mission is to visit the forgotten lonely people in nursing homes. I could not visit Ed. This was something I distressed about often yet I could not pull myself together to visit with and sit by his side.
After Irene’s death, I visited Ed frequently in his home and brought him dinners, and sat and reminisced. Once his health began to decline, my urge to visit him also declined. This was something I felt ashamed of and I was horrified at my behavior. How could I care so much about the strangers in the nursing homes yet secretly stay away from the one person I knew residing in one? All I can say is that, something inside would not allow me to visit him. I could not see Ed in such a vulnerable state, alone and waiting to reunite with Irene. I had experienced great loss before, having lost my parents, and did not feel strong enough to go through the long process again.
When I heard that Ed had passed, I phoned his nephew to offer my condolences. I apologized for not being there for Ed his last year of life, and I felt awkward in my reasoning. He graciously absolved any guilt I had, as if he reached through the phone and hugged me. I felt a sense of comfort in our conversation and he explained to me that Ed had spent the last year of his life with alzheimer's and was unaware of the people around him. The last time I had visited with Ed, I noticed our repetitive conversations, but did not realize that shortly after that visit he would not remember his life or any of the people in it.
Today is a turning point in my life. I choose to release any guilt or regrets that I have been holding on to. Ed would want it that way. I would rather spend today and every day going forward focussing on all of the wonderful memories. I am grateful for those.
As we were walking away from his grave today, one of our former neighbors said, “I was not a good neighbor, and this makes me feel badly” I quickly replied, “You did your best, what you could, when you could, and we all could have been better, right? That’s life, but it's how we move forward that matters”. It was so easy for me to offer such wisdom to a stranger, wisdom I carried home with me today.
At the end of the funeral, two young soldiers meticulously folded the American Flag that draped Ed’s casket. They carefully paid attention to each and every moment of the process, not to make any mistakes, so that the flag would be perfectly folded in tribute and handed to the family with honor.
Before handing the flag to Ed’s nephew, the first soldier ran his fingers slowly across the flags surface, as if he were compassionately caressing Ed’s cheek, and then he lovingly cradled the flag and held it up against his heart. He handed the flag to the second soldier and he lovingly handed it to Ed's nephew and thanked him for his service to our country. It was the most beautiful moment I have witnessed in my entire life. A final act of love and kindness for a wonderful man.
Ed would want each and every person who attended his funeral, or his life, to carry on with love and kindness for others and for ourselves. Regret is no way to honor someone. Rest in Peace my dear friend, until we meet again.