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They go in three's

06/20/08

Permalink 07:17:38 pm, by joseph Email , 1953 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [B]

They go in three's

They say when people die, they go in three. For me, the three who recently passed away, never knew each other, in fact one, never even met me. But all three has some level of impact on me and who I am today.

Follow up:

The first person to pass away was Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert. This was an unexpected death that caught America off guard. Tim was one of the few on-air talent who you could watch and actually learn something. Most interviewers I watch have their own agenda and their interviews tend to come off very bias. CNN and FOX are both guilty of this and, at least for me, makes me change the channel faster than a gas station attendant changing the price of gas on a billboard. (yeah, that is pretty damn fast).

Perhaps this is why folks tend to feel disassociated with many of the political driven shows. Whatever happened to unbiased interviewing? I think the only one left now with any creditability is Larry King, and from the looks of him, he's not far from joining up with Tim.

Getting back to Tim, he was one of those interviews who weren’t afraid to ask the hard questions, no fluffball questions from him. But what made it truly unique is that he let the person answer the question that he asked. How many times have you watched an interview and the interviewer interrupted the person answering the questions before allowing them to fully answer the question? To me that is just plain disrespectful. If you are going to ask a question, at least give the person the chance to fully answer the question. You can always rebut after they are finished.

I see myself a lot in this manner. I am not afraid to ask the hard questions, when I feel they need to be asked. People do need to be accountable for their actions and if they say something they should stand by their words. This, my friends, is what we call integrity. I have much more respect for someone who is honest with me than someone who tells me what they think I want to hear. I know that life is about differences and it's okay to agree to disagree.

Let’s hope that in death, Tim will become a model for other interviewers and moderators. Then perhaps Americans will turn the channel from watching crappy shows like "Desperate Housewives" and "SwingTown" and begin to be more involved and educated in the Politics of America.

The second person to pass on was Ann Kittredge, mother of Dan Kittredge who happens to be married to my Aunt Lilly thus making him my Uncle. Ann, for those who have not had the opportunity to meet her, was a woman who loved her independence. When I met her in 2000, I wasn't quite sure what to make of her. Although she was disabled, she got around by pushing a cart in front of her. But it was her constant smile and positive outlook on life that really set her apart.

This cart of hers that she pushed around always contained an assortment of goodies. Foremost of which were doggy treated for Uncle Dan's three legged dog, Coco. It was a happy day for Coco when ever Ann came to visit. Her cart also contained gifts and cards for who ever was celebrating a special occasion such as a birthday, an anniversary or, baptism.

What struck me as unique about Ann was her ability to be interested in just about any topic. She was able to talk about anything and if she didn't know she wasn't afraid to ask. Perhaps her knowledge of life came from her love of books. I doubt I will ever meet anyone who enjoyed reading more than she did. Whenever I took my boys by to visit her house was overfilled with all sorts of books and it wasn't uncommon for her to be reading two or three books at a time.

She appeared to be a very good listener, I say appeared because her hearing was not the best and I think at times that she just smiled and nodded in hope that the talker wouldn't feel put off.

My dad commented to me recently that Ann appeared to be more interested in learning about others than she was in letting others know about her. One could argue that she did this in order to keep others from knowing more about her, but I suspect it was her way of making the other person feel special. There is a secret, if you will, in getting other people to feel better about themselves. People love to talk about themselves and if you can get some to talk about themselves and their experiences, they will warm up to you very quickly and leave with a better impression of you.

I think it was her independence or reluctance to rely on others that lead to her death. It is sad really, since she had much more life to live. The medical conditions that led to her untimely death could have been prevented had she allowed those close to her to intercede. I know that both my wife and I were planning on visiting her when she was released from the hospital. So you can imagine the surprise we got upon learning of her passing. We never did get that chance to see her. She died before being able to see our youngest son. She adored our older two boys and always sent cards to them on their birthdays with something special inside, usually money or a savings bond.

Our youngest is turning one next month and, perhaps as a final goodbye, Ann had left a birthday card for Jordan to be mailed out next month. Right now it is sitting on our piano waiting for Jordan to turn one. It will be sad opening the card, but I know that the joy and love that Ann had for our kids will be contained inside the card until it is opened and then it will be released for all to enjoy.

I would be amiss if I didn't tell at least one Ann story. Ann always had a fascination for money. Not so much for creating wealth but more about the history and uniqueness of it. On one occasion she had given me a card for my birthday and told me I couldn't open it until then. Since I was flying back home to Oregon, I placed the card in my carry-on luggage without a second thought. That was, until I went through security where I was flagged for carrying an unknown object. The TSA folks took a thorough looking into my carry-on to find out what this object was. It turned out to be a silver dollar encased in a plastic box complete with a letter of authenticity. I guess my birthday came early that year.

The last person in this trilogy to pass away was my favorite teacher in high school, Larry Larson. I suppose he wasn’t my favorite while in high school but in retrospect he was probably one of the best high school teachers one could ever had. I had him for two classes, accounting and business law. It was in business law that for the first time I discovered my true ability to learn. While I did make honor roll in high school I was by no means at the top of my class. Extracurricular activities such as sports, band and taking care of things at home often took president over studying. However, to pass Mr. Larson’s class one needed to study and be prepared for class the next day.

Mr. Larson had an uncanny way of calling on one of his students to answer a question. He never looked directly at you. In fact he would look directly at another student when he asked you a question. Suffice to say, it was always a good thing when he was looking at you. I am pretty sure I wasn’t his favorite student, but I have no doubt that I was one of his most memorable students. I think I may still hold the record for most questions asked in his class. I guess it was my way of testing him to see if I could get him to break. Inadvertently, I suppose, it was my asking all those questions that actually caused me to learn the subject matter. So much so that when I competed in Future Business Leaders of America competitions, I won in the area of Business Law. I did so well that I found myself competing in the national level in Cincinnati. While I didn’t win at the national level, it was nice to know that I was one of the top students in the nation when it came to business law. Not bad for some little bastard half-breed kid from a Podunk town in the middle of Oregon.

I guess it was around that time that I felt that there was something more to life to learn and while it wasn’t easy making the transition from high school to college, I was able to get three degrees over a ten year period, mostly by asking ton’s of questions to my professors and bugging them to no end.

One thing that stood out about Mr. Larson, apart from the fact that he was colorblind (which opened large doors for those who loved to play tricks on him i.e. painting his podium a bright orange) was his foresight to understand that most of what we need to learn in life isn’t taught in regular classes. He was the first one to address death and how to deal with it. For many of us in his classes, death was not something we had to deal with; after all we are teen agers and were going to live forever.

During that week that he taught us about death and the stages of grieving thank in part to Elisabeth Kübler Ross, most of us learned skills that would prepare use for the inevitable. Sadly a week after our graduation one of our classmates dies in a head on car crash. For me as an EMT and being on the first ambulance to arrive and the one to identify her, death, it seems was not so distant. I know that what helped many of us deal with this sudden death was our ability to recognize the stages and use the skills that Mr. Larson taught us just weeks before.

Over the ten years that I spent as an EMT, I experienced death first hand in many forms. What was hardest about it for me was not seeing the person who died, but seeing the people who were directly or vicariously affected by the death. Observing how loved ones reacted to the death is not an easy thing to behold, especially if the death was unexpected, which tended to be the case in the Indian Reservation where I worked. I only wish that more students would learn about death and dying in high school. If they have time to teach our kids on how to have safe sex I’m sure they can make time to teach them on how to deal with death.

So I take my hat off to Mr. Larson and quietly say a quick thank you as I remember him and his love of the classroom. I only wish that more teachers, especially English teachers, had the passion and love for teaching that he had and made it a point to challenge their students.

.....Rest in Peace Tim, Ann and Larry, You will be missed.

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