The afternoon of San Bernardino, December 2, 2015, I was in Bloomington MN at Presbyterian Home, visiting my long time friend, Lynn, who had been admitted there the previous day.
It had been a very tough month for Lynn and his family. The previous week, beginning with Thanksgiving evening, when he went into intensive care at a hospital, had been even worse.
Such times are most always uncertain, almost chaotic, even when everyone knows that there is a new and unavoidable “normal” facing them.
So, I passed the word along to friends who knew Lynn, and would want to know his status. The first message from family had the word “hospice” as part of its content; early the next day, Lynn made a remarkable rebound. By Monday, plans were made to move him to the Nursing Home.
Friend Ruhel, owner of the popular Gandhi Mahal restaurant in south Minneapolis, called and asked if he could ride along when I went to visit; another of Lynn and Ruhel’s friends, balladeer Larry Long, called with the same request.
So, about noon on Wednesday, the three of us met at Gandhi Mahal and traveled south to the Nursing Home.
Ruhel brought along some soup and bread for his friend. Larry brought his guitar.
Ruhel, native Bangladeshi, sat in the back seat, Larry in the front, and I drove.
There was some kidding about me “Driving Miss Daisy”….
I think we surprised Lynn when we appeared at his room.
He was especially delighted to see Ruhel and Larry.
As we chatted, Ruhel took out the soup and the bread, and helped feed Lynn, whose limbs are not working the best.
It was a very tender time.
(click photos to enlarge)
Shortly, Larry took out his guitar, and sang Lynn’s favorite anthem, “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream”*.
I noted that Lynn had a very strong voice when he sang along: much, much stronger and in tune than when I had first heard him sing that song eight years earlier at a meeting. It reminded me of my Uncle singing “Amazing Grace” some months before he died. There was no hesitation in his voice that summer day in LaMoure ND, as if Uncle Vince knew something was on the way for him, shortly.
Another resident came walking past, heard the music, and wondered if there was a program. There was a bit of conversation, among which Lynn revealed that he was a Naval Officer in WWII, and our visitor said he’d been on “mop-up” duty in the Army at the ending period after the deadly Battle of the Bulge.
As it happened, Larry has been working on an album of military based songs, intended to, as I understand him, help bridge the communications gap between those who think war is the only answer, and those who think peace is the only answer. One of his ballads, a long one, is the words of a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge put to music. So, he sang the song for the veteran and the rest of us. It was a very powerful moment, just four men, together.
Our “audience” headed off to his room, and we drove back to the restaurant, and spent some minutes talking about this and that.
Then we all went home.
My first notice about what had happened in San Bernardino came via the evening news….
I thought back to the American response after 9-11-01.
This time, so far, I’ve noticed a much more muted response by the public, which is, I think, the best measure of reality.
If there is to be peace on earth, indeed, it will have to begin with each of us, maybe with that cup of soup and piece of bread and some music to accompany.
What San Bernardino will represent in days to come is up to us.
All Blessings at this season of peace.
* – Larry and I talked about the Ed McCurdy song, Last Night I had the Strangest Dream. He said the strongest rendition he ever heard was that of Johnny Cash. You can listen to that Johnny Cash version here.
from Jeff P: Thanks Dick, the note of the vet from the Battle of the Bulge and the songs reminded me of a childhood memory. I may have been 7 or 8 years old , It was early evening or late afternoon in December (in Upper Michigan in December its dark by 3:30 i think) I was at a neighbor kids home, and the radio was on, we were playing something on the floor in their living room. As it was the Christmas season they were playing Christmas songs, the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” started to play and the radio in the kitchen was switched off or turned to another channel. I think I looked at the other kids, and one of the older daughters said that her father had been in the Battle of the Bulge and could never listen to that song after his experience. He forbade the song in their house and the mother hearing it quickly shut it down.
from Flo: Really appreciated your blog, including having Larry Long as part of your group with Lynn. I’m so glad you could all be together, each sharing what you brought to your relationship together.