Sweet memories keep friends with us

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The words — for several days, I struggled to find the right words while my feelings were fresh. I needed words to help me understand something that had no explanation.

Always I’ve found comfort in letting thoughts form themselves into words and sentences, creating a story to help me sort things out. Last week, there were too many thoughts, too much feeling, too many words whirling in my mind. So I sat and breathed, tried to let myself settle into stillness.

All that came into my head as I followed the in-and-out movement of my breath was my friend Larry’s face, his grin. His dry sense of humor got me every time, and he‘d just grin that special grin of his. That was one of his gifts.

Oh, he played at having kind of a tough exterior, but everyone knew it was an act. Inside he was as soft as a marshmallow and had a heart big enough to include lots of people in his circle of friends.

I met Larry when we were kids going to school together. When he left to go to another school, we lost touch. Then, I went to work with him at Mizell Memorial Hospital in the early 1990s, and we reconnected becoming good friends.

Pretty much every day I spent time with Larry. We shared many of the same ideas about life and I enjoyed talking to and laughing with him. When I changed jobs, we stayed in touch for a while. Over time, we drifted apart only meeting occasionally in the grocery store to spend a few minutes catching up on what was happening in our worlds.

Then a twist of fate brought him back into my life when my husband went to work with Larry in the materials management department at Mizell last fall. They quickly became friends and spent every day talking about work and music and life.

As for me and Larry, we immediately fell back into the easy way of communicating we had when we worked together. It was great to be around him again.

Early last week that big, kind heart of Larry’s, which was not a healthy one, simply gave out. My husband and I awoke to a text message saying he passed away, and we sat silently together trying to take in the fact our friend was gone.

Later, I stood in the beautiful spring morning wanting to scream “WHY?” to the heavens. WHY, WHY, WHY…”

I didn’t scream; instead, I tried to find the words to help sort out the questions. All I found as an answer were the words “I don’t know.”

On Friday, family, coworkers, (who were also friends) and all of those close to Larry came together to honor his life. With his words, the minister described Larry’s compassion, told how he anonymously did so much good for so many people. We smiled when he said Larry liked to cook because more than a few of us were lucky enough to be the recipients of the favorite treat that the preacher mentioned, pecan pie muffins.

Later at the cemetery standing in the warm spring sunshine, I looked around at the people there to celebrate this man’s life. At that moment, I thought about the words spoken at his service, and about the words we shared as we talked about this person we knew and loved.

I guess not just for me but for all humans, words are what we have to carry us through the tough times as well as the joyous moments. It’s the stories we create, the emotions we share as we spin our words into meaning that comfort us.

There is something else words do for us; they allow us to recall and hold on to our memories. And, the wonderful thing is that as long as we share those memories, speak and write them into being with our words, Larry Jones is with us, and will be for as long as we live.


Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.