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Oglesby: Memories of lost friends burn brightly

POSTED: June 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Personalities and events often seem to meld together in unexpected ways. What brought this to mind were the deaths a couple of weeks ago of a fellow church member and client, his wife only months before and of another nonclient member a few weeks earlier. An entirely different event many miles north involving still another member did the retrospective melding.

As we were wont to do every so often, Betty and I and best friends Keith and Dale Rochester had flown off and rented a car to leisurely explore an area of the country. We were on a Wisconsin four-lane between Green Bay and Appleton, headed for Wisconsin Dells. Our ladies sitting in the back seat of our rental car were giving us the dickens because we weren’t stopping at the antique shops advertised at virtually every exit.

Sharp-eyed Betty spotted a huge sign and told us about it. "They’re not going to stop," Dale growled just as I spotted another sign advertising a cheese factory and ice cream shop at the same exit. Never two guys to pass up ice cream, Keith got my drift immediately when I suggested we let the ladies explore this antique shop.

As we pulled into the parking lot, out came Walt and Claire Murray headed for their RV. We honked and over they came wanting to know what we were doing there and where we were going. We asked the same. Owen and Annette Patton and Ray and Lynda Lawrence were on the way to our destination, Wisconsin Dells.

What are the odds of five couples from the same Northeast Georgia church, neither group knowing the other was even gone but headed for the same destination for different reasons, meeting up in a parking lot off the four-lane about 10 miles north of Appleton, Wis.?

Why bring that up? Keith died suddenly not long after. Less than a year ago, Annette Patton died. A couple of months ago, Walt Murray died. A couple of weeks ago, Owen Patton died. We survivors share that memory.

One of Owen’s caretakers shared a heartwarming story about his last day. He was fussing, wanting to get ready to go to the wedding. He was going to be late if they didn’t get moving. She had no wedding on his schedule, but he was getting more and more persistent.

"Who’s getting married?" she asked. "I am," he said. Incredulous at first, she responded, "Who’re you marrying?" she asked. "Annette," he replied.

A few hours later, he was dead.

It’s not an uncommon belief, particularly among Christians, that people somehow know when they’re dying. This caretaker sitting by me at lunch following the services firmly believes Owen knew he was about to be reunited with his beloved Annette before God after less than a year’s separation.

Happenstance and faith doesn’t get much better. God does work in ways mysterious to us humans.

Let’s change gears into a little potpourri: We may know the outcome of the Democratic Primary by the time you read this. It’s having to be written nearly two weeks in advance. I’ve been out of pocket moving.

Yes, moving and just up the same street. Our knees just won’t take the stairs any longer, and we didn’t want any falls that could hasten our demise. We didn’t want to leave this neighborhood we love, and a single story home became available. It has a bigger ground footprint but less total living space. Getting rid of a couple of rooms of treasured furniture requires excruciating decisions. We’re now unpacking.

A mixture of Hall County leaders, elected and nonelected, successfully tossed away the state highway board seat that was ours for the taking. The intentions were good but very risky, and it backfired. The seat has gone across the district as forewarned. The culpable and many local constituents know the respective roles and reasons. We start now from where we actually are, not from where we want to be.

Finally, a good number of you in Hall and outside, have called or written about taking the BULLI course on terrorism I’ll be teaching this fall. Those communications are helping tremendously in our planning. Keep them coming at the address below.

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. His column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503.



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