By Trent Rentsch
If you’re in a situation where every day is a battle against time, your co-workers, clients, your “crummy” production library, that crap copy written by Lord knows who, a nagging sore throat... remember: some losses are unavoidable.
I’ve had three recently that have been hard to deal with. The first came out of the blue. I met Craig when I was still producing the morning show at WPTF. As a Special Forces Veteran, Craig became our expert for all things military. My first impression, I hate to admit, was that he was a little crazy. He’d stroll into the studio, bald, bare-foot (mind you, he rode his Harley to the station some 30 miles bare-foot), a gleam in his eye and a confident stride that made me sure he already had a dossier on all of us. As I got to know him I discovered a kind, intelligent, generous person who had made it his life’s work to serve his country and fellow man. Granted, riding the cycle at insane speeds bare-foot was eccentric, but who doesn’t have an odd habit or two?
Craig and I even ended up co-hosting the afternoon talk show when our regular host was on vacation a couple of times. There was even a point when an opening came up, and Craig tried to convince me that we should apply together for it. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have laughed it off.
I stopped at WPTF a couple of months ago to grab some coffee and chat with the morning guy before I went to work. We were laughing and trading war stories when he paused and got a sad look on his face. “Oh... did you hear? Captain Marks passed away.” It didn’t seem real. Here’s a man who had fought for our country in many dangerous situations, who had gone on to serve as a Deputy Sheriff and put himself in harms way again, a man who had seen more hell than any of us will experience even in our wildest nightmares. And in the end? A tractor accident on his farm. It wasn’t just that he was gone, it was the manner of his passing that seemed especially senseless.
It wasn’t long after that the news came that Lee was losing her fight with cancer. Lee was a friend of my wife’s, a woman who had a vision and a way of making things happen. In my wife’s case, that vision was for a radio program for pre-schoolers. I met Lee in the early planning stages, right before I moved to Raleigh. She soaked up what little I knew about kids’ radio from my KidStar days like a sponge, and despite the fact that I had a nagging feeling that no station would pick up her show as she described it, she had a way of making me very excited about the project. It was that enthusiasm that was so contagious that she not only got the show on several stations, but went on to create a television version which won an Emmy it’s first year of broadcast.
A week before Lee’s struggle ended, she was on the phone with my wife, still working on the program, knowing full well that the end was near. There was a celebration of her life a couple of weeks after she passed, and it was then that we realized that the program was just one example of the amazing things she accomplished in her life. She had the ear of every major politician in the state, and succeeded in establishing a weekly talk show about state government. A gifted musician, she recently composed a song that was recorded by Nancy Wilson... a song that appeared on an album that went on to win a Grammy. One by one, her friends and family spoke about Lee, each adding another piece to the puzzle that, when finished, was a picture of a complex life well-lived.
The last loss came a couple of weeks ago. My wife’s Step-Father Tom, who had survived Hodgkins Lymphoma a few years ago, had been in for a check-up when they found the spot on the x-ray. Lung cancer, the bad kind. He decided against treatment, which at most would’ve prolonged things. In his final months he and my wife’s Mom were able to take a cruise to Alaska, and many family events were held to allow us all as much time with him as possible (including a guy’s night out to Hooter’s, where the servers were told that it was both Tom’s birthday and mine, and we danced dressed like chickens).
We were all there the last few days, some members of the family 24 hours a day. As Tom’s faith was very strong, the spirit was willing, but ironically, his body was extremely strong. We began to pray for an end to his pain. That end finally came, peacefully, surrounded by us all, the love of his life whispering in his ear that it was okay to let go.
Tom might not have been financially wealthy, but in those final days and the time that has followed, it’s clear that he was rich in the love and respect of countless people. Always kind, generous and willing to help anyone in need, that was Tom. He was a role model, I hope I never forget the lessons he taught me.
Sad? Very. Depressing? Not so much as inspiring. All three of these people taught me something about really living life, rather than just trudging through each day, accepting what’s given and complaining about what’s not.
Some losses are unavoidable. Do what you must to have the life you dream of and quit sweating the small stuff.