The woman is a local educational legend, and everyone from the old days knows her. Her husband owned a gas station for decades, where children received free candy when their parents bought gas or had a tire changed. She and her husband were high-school sweethearts during the Happy Days of entertainers such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Bobby Darin, and the Everly Brothers (that would be 1959). He always had the greatest garden in town, even through his waning years. She cans and preserves everything from their garden, and they ate their own produce year-round. Her pickles are legendary. If one passed by their house, it was normal to see him tooling about on his old golf cart and soaking in the sun. They owned a catering business together. She has been a retired master educator for years, but even now she is a substitute teacher and loves filling in for select classes. Every evening, they sat on their porch or inside and watched sports and game shows. They lived and loved together for 61 years of marriage after three years of dating.

This sweet old gentleman had kidney failure and had been on dialysis for 15 years. Eventually his body just wore out and everything was failing. He grew tired of feeling bad and being immobile and declared, “no more.” With the choice of no more dialysis, death would come quickly as toxins had no way out of his body. He passed within a week.

The church building was packed as hundreds came to pay their respect. The service was a celebration of a life well lived, complete with speakers, great singing, and applause for his life.  She was there with her daughter and grand-children by her side, wondering how the years had passed so quickly. His favorite treat was cookies and ice-cream so those were served with everyone after the service. After the service is when reality hits and healing begins. Up to the funeral, she was covered with compassionate friends and neighbors. The food that was delivered to their house was impressive. She had consistent visitors, texts and phone calls. But when the hurricane passes the silence is deafening. Her daughter stayed a week and then went home. I went over that evening and brought her favorite catfish. We sat for a few hours and I mostly listened. The next morning, folks sat by her at church, surrounding her with love. Last night, my wife, my daughter and her best friend brought Mod Pizzas and they played games for hours. Her friends are checking on her and she has spent a couple nights at their homes. This is a tough transition of life and this strong lady will be ok regardless, but the village is going to walk with her and make it easier.

That’s the way life at its best goes. Life tears us down sometimes and if we are fortunate, people lift us up. I often think I don’t really need anyone but that is not true. I don’t need a huge network and my community does not have to be large but I need to know that my small group is available for hard times. There is a real blessing in having folks with you through the storm and another set of blessings given by people who have been there and can help you navigate the waters.

You see, this wonderful old friend of ours will be helping us soon. In a week we will be taking my last kid, the child of my old age, to college. The nest will then be empty and my wife and I will be adjusting to just each other again. It is hard enough to deal with me but doing that while my wife grieves her last baby running off to college is huge! Our lady friend is in her 80s and knows about life. She loves my wife like a daughter and has all the tools to help her through the reality all of her chicks being away. She also has the tools to walk us both through rediscovering each other and getting me ready for semi-retirement in a few years.

Here’s the deal. In community, we help each other. We walk with one another through transitions, heartbreaks, victories and celebrations. Here at CK, we are a family – a big one.  Covid laid a real lick on corporations’ ability to maintain relationships among its employees but it does not have to stay that way. We have the choice to build supportive relationships in order to walk together during good and bad times. We can help each other through change and transitions that are inevitable. We can be a community that not only helps kids and families but also assists each other. CK is a wonderful world. Let’s all work to make it even better – inside and out!