Friday, December 18, 2009

Life and Death

Life and Death

What’s to say? I went to 2 memorial services in as many weeks.

Don Murphy - Today was for Don Murphy. I didn’t know Don, but a bunch of people did. There were about 1500 at the service. He left a wife and 2 almost grown daughters. He volunteered at a half-way house, working with recovering men, helping them get their GEDs, and otherwise doing what he could. He gave out 20 dollar bills to some of those at the half-way house to help them setup their first-ever checking accounts.

He was struck in a hit-and-run before dawn on Wednesday of last week while he was out riding his bike with 2 of his best friends. His friends gave him CPR while the car sped away. The driver was later found and has been charged. Unlike the man who killed Armas last June, she wasn’t drunk She was apparently just not paying attention … but how could she just drive away after he bounced off the hood into her windshield, shattering it?  She dragged his bike under her car for a mile and a half before she stopped.  She was later found (bike debris littered her path) and taken in custody.

My friend found a pulse as they continued CPR, but after the EMTs transported him to the Trauma Center there was no brainwave. His family donated his organs which were parceled out yesterday, saving several other lives in the process. But it’s such a waste … such a heart-breaker.

Joanne Penseyres – Joanne lost a very long battle with depression a few weeks ago, at 65 years of age. There was a memorial service for her last Saturday. She was life-partner with Pete Penseyres, legendary ultra-distance cyclist. She crewed for cross-country bike race teams something like 13 times, supporting the cyclists’ dreams. There were so many people that spoke of all the support they received from Joanne. But she didn’t save quite enough support for herself. She was also a very articulate poet. Here’s one she wrote “for all cyclists”:

Come Share Their Dreams

I’ve been there many times,
To care for the men who ride after their dreams,
Seen their foreheads glazed with perspiration,
Their faces taut with concentration,
Even pain.

To the public they’re crazy men, gone insane Over riding a bicycle,
But I know them better; I’ve been there.
They’re riding their dreams.

If you doubt me, come see them.
Look past the pain, the sweat, watch their eyes.
You’ll see the dreams coming true.
Come share their dreams,
And you may catch a dream or two.

Rod Armas – About 25 years ago Rod Armas bicycled the Grand Tour Double Century put on by the Los Angeles Wheelmen. This past June he wanted to introduce his 14 year old son the this great adventure, so he dusted off the helmet he used on that earlier occasion and started out with his son. I saw them in mid afternoon. I was sagging the ride, and they were the last riders on the course. We gave them some water and drove ahead to the lunch stop, where they arrived a bit later.

They were in good spirits, but the lunch stop was almost closed. We scraped up something for them to eat. I noticed that they didn’t have anyplace to keep their route slips, and I taped a metal binder to the handlebars on each of their bikes and put a fresh route slip in them. I didn’t see them any more that day, but Jim Watrous took the attached photo of them after they left that rest stop. I had to drive someone who had DNF’d to the end, and drove home after that, not seeing them again. You probably know the rest. They were hit by a drunk driver along PCH not far from the finish of the ride. Rod was killed; his son Chris had many broken bones, but survived.

What’s to say? Life is so precious and fragile. Don’t miss any opportunities to tell those close to you how much you love them, and how much they mean to you. No, don’t miss those opportunities ….


  1. Profound, Dan. While this post might make many slide into a holiday pool of schlock, it makes me feel fierce. Miss no opportunity, even if the door is only partially open . . . Thank you. By the way, I read your post about Joanne earlier. I'm well familiar with Bonsall School District and some of the good folk there. I was the union rep to many of them. I didn't know her.

  2. I was talking with a friend this morning on the way to riding Mt Palomar, and in casting around trying to explain my uneasiness with the situation, I realize what bothers me. In the memorial services, some (including some of the families involved) made the point that they knew their loved ones were now in a better place, and that they would be reunited with them in the next life. While I don't want to argue with anyone and challenge their believe systems (don't want to pry their beliefs away from them if they help them get through the night), it seems to me that they are being way too cavalier and glib about the situation. Life is a mystery and a miracle of sorts, and to treat it glibly seems to me to cheapen it and cheat oneself.

  3. PS: Have you been able to forgive that little girl in the back seat (a couple posts back) with the bottle between her feet that was leaking the syrupy liquid; forgive her for staying silent when she might have spoken up?

  4. Oh, Dan, you are GOOD (re: the A&W ooze). Truthfully, I probably haven't forgiven that child over the root beer and upsetting her mother and ejecting her brother from his crib. Some of the deeply rooted stuff will take an atom bomb to dislodge. But, happily and importantly, I have been able to forgive myself some of the more recent "sins", and that is hugely significant for me. I am on a sharp learning curve and grateful for it. I've often been concerned I'd never quite get anything right before my time was through.

    I'm WITH you on that glib thing! It strikes me as pablum for people who can't or won't deal with the death of another human being. Some of us are considered too extreme in our gnashing of our teeth. But, damn it, when someone DIES, I want to scream about it a little. I want to experience the pain and grieve awhile and then land in a true, honest place of peace. Not just some lame pronouncement at a memorial service which tells everyone that I'm living in denial and won't deal with the death.