People write blogs for so many different reasons. I have friends that use theirs as a teaching tool to share knowledge about the places they see and things that they do. I have others that use it as a daily diary. Some that highlight their businesses and talents and some others that use it as a political format. Mine is mostly been designed to keep friends and family informed of mine and Maxine’s travels, as we enjoy and explore this beautiful country of ours. It’s always been meant to be a travel blog but every once in a while I need to add my personal feelings just to share them and keep people informed. For my followers that aren’t interested in this you might want to stop reading at this point. As you can imagine I have my ups and downs just like everyone else, good days and bad ones. And sometimes I allow myself to get into a slump, what I call a self-pity day. Even though I try to always think of the glass half full. All my life the month of May has been a mix bag of emotions. May in Wisconsin is the real start of our spring, unlike many other parts of the country (where it starts much earlier). This is when the trees bud out and the flowers start to bloom and the flowering trees are in full blossom. Unlike Georgia where I spent this winter and this all started back in March. And last year in Southern California the flowers were in their full glory by the end of January and February. But once again back in Wisconsin May can be a fickle thing. One day it’ll be warm and sunny and some of the best time of the year weather-wise. But then the next day it can be rainy and cold and you might even have some snow. And after what is always a long winter (remembering as a young boy) this makes for an emotional roller coaster. Also May has always been a month with many celebrations my whole life. There is of course Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, the ending of another school year. And also in my family, my dad’s, my brother and one of my sister’s birthdays are all in the month of May. And as a young adult I married my beautiful bride “Sonia” whose birthday is celebrated on May 21. And this brings me to the subject of today’s post. As stated in the title life is beautiful and I’ve always tried to make the best of it and celebrated and enjoy it. There are times it’s difficult and even sometimes feels impossible to look at life in a bright tone. But even with all those ups and downs it’s something that needs to be treasured. Because as we all know from the time we are born the only thing in life that is for certain is we will die. So we need to make the best of it as we are here on this earth for what is really a short time. There are some of us that die way too young and others that feel we’ve lived way too long. My mother will be turning 91 this year and at times she feels she’s gone on too long. She’s outlived all of her siblings and most of her friends and at times feels the pain of her age. But she gets up every day and still tries to make the best of it even though sometimes it’s very difficult when things are not going right. So watching her at this age along with the frailties of it, sometimes brings me down. And then of course with the loss of my dear Sonia at the very young age of 53, makes me realize that every moment should be cherished. Here’s a photo I want to share of that young girl I married back in 1975. Today would’ve been her 63rd birthday, but unfortunately we celebrated it without her being here. I think the hardest part of losing her at such a young age, is that my two lovely daughters have not been able to experience all the things she had to offer the past 10 years. Here’s a photo of my beautiful daughters (taken today ) sitting on the memorial bench that we had placed in Mirror Lake State Park, just outside Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. (Jennifer on the left and Crystal on the right) And I know May is always a hard month on both my girls. But this year we were lucky enough to get together this weekend and celebrated with Sonia’s brother Larry and his wife Jan in Marshfield Wisconsin. Here’s a photo of Larry and me. Another one of us along with Crystal all having a good time. In here’s one of the girls and Larry’s wife Jan. We had a good time visiting with them, playing games, like we always did when Sonia was alive and we would get together and just enjoying each other’s company. So this weekend we remembered the fun times we had together when she was still alive and celebrated the wonderful person she was. But it also makes for that emotional roller coaster that we all know (too well) and experience at times in our lives. And now for another reason, why May will always be an emotional roller coaster of a month for me. Because on May 16 of this year. I lost a very dear and valuable friend “Richard (Dick) Wurtz” to that unkind and merciless disease of cancer.
As some of you might remember back in the fall and early winter of 2015, Dick along with his three dogs and Maxine and I spent several months together in Georgia. Where he would go during the winter months to work on training his dogs. You can find one of my posts from then, here at this link. But here’s a few photos from back then. Here’s one of Dick with his three boys teaching them to sing with Maxine watching in the background. In another one of them patiently waiting for him to throw the ball.
And here he sits relaxing in front of my old rig.
One of the great benefits of the time together in Georgia back in 2015. Is that he told me to come along and he would teach me the refinements of being retired, which he did. He taught me to slow down and take life a little easier and always keep in mind that it can wait till tomorrow if need be. We shared many good times over the 40 some years that we’ve known each other. There was the times when he was single and then when he got married and had his son Ryan. Ryan is just slightly younger than my youngest daughter, Jennifer. In those early years we got together and celebrated things as much as we could, but not nearly enough. Then we grew apart for many years, busy with our own lives and problems him moving first to Minnesota and then to Phoenix. We reconnected again while he was still living in Phoenix, after Sonia’s passing. After his retirement about five years ago he moved back to Wisconsin and we started spending quite a bit of time together. Doing a few trips together and eventually spending several months enjoying each other’s company while in Georgia. We got to rekindle our friendship which deepened so much more than in our younger years, with us both being older and wiser. He had been divorced many years earlier and now his son Ryan was grown and on his own. So we both being bachelors, with many same interests it just was a good fit. The plan was this year he was going to go back to Georgia in October and spend the winter fairly close to where I was at. And back in August we talked about the things we could do and the times we could share throughout this winter. But it was not meant to be. He had not been feeling quite right for the last couple years, actually starting back December of 2015, when we were together in Georgia. At that time he tested positive for Lyme’s disease and was treated for that and started feeling somewhat better. But then things took a turn for the worst and he started feeling tired and weak again. They didn’t many many tests but could not really come up with a cause. And finally in September of this year he was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. The bad thing is it was already at stage 4, by the time they discovered what it was. So the plans of him coming down to Georgia quickly changed. We talked frequently over this winter and he always kept his positive and upbeat attitude. He told me many times how thankful he was for his great life he had. At first he and the oncologist thought it best to take a wait-and-see approach to the cancer. But as winter progressed the cancer started spreading again. And they decided it was time to try some chemo. He had his first treatment back in March and another in April. Which of course any of you that have had experience with it, or with your loved ones that have gone through chemo, know that can be quite trying. But through it all he stayed very positive, until the last couple weeks before I got home to Wisconsin. I could feel it was getting him down and taking its toll. When I got back to Wisconsin on May 1, I gave him a call (leaving a voice message) to let him know I was back and check and see if he wanted company on the third when he was scheduled for his next chemo. He got back to me on the second to let me know things had changed and he wasn’t scheduled for chemo but was getting another CAT scan to check the progression of things because he had a bad feeling things were not going well. It ended up showing that the cancer was growing rapidly. On May 3 after meeting with his doctor along with his son “Ryan”, they made the decision to go into hospice care, giving him only weeks to live. As you can imagine this was a shock to us all. The timing could have not been a worse. As if any time would’ve been good. But you see Ryan along with his girlfriend and her daughter had for over a year planned a two-week cruise to Spain, leaving on 13 May. Of course right away Ryan was going to cancel the trip. So he could be with his dad. But that was the last thing that Dick wanted. But for me being back in Wisconsin the timing allowed me to help out. And after much convincing and insisting on Dick’s and my part we assured Ryan that it was best for all. If he went on the trip because that would make Dick the happiest and there was really nothing he could do to change the outcome. Ryan’s biggest concern was there really was no one else that could help out. Dick’s ex-wife “Judy” (Ryan’s mom) lives in the area and was willing to help out as much as she could, but she has her own health issues and is physically unable to do the task. Also Dick sister Kate came to his house to spend the last week. But she had broken her back in February and has a back brace and using a walker, therefore not being much able to physically help. And none of us wanted him to spend his last days in a nursing home. I assured Ryan and the rest of the family, I was more than happy to be there for Dick, and he was more willing to have me help out more than anyone else. So on Friday, May 11, I move my RV out to Dick’s property so I could be around day and night. Dick really want Ryan to remember him when he still was responsive and in fairly good shape. So on Friday the 12th we forced Ryan to leave, of course with tears in his eyes and not really wanting to go. At that time we were pretty sure Dick would not be here when he got back. Just like (my wishes are) Dick’s wishes were not to have a funeral (but just be cremated) and not even have a memorial service. So we assured Ryan there was no need to come rushing back, I’m sure this was very hard for him to agree to. One other bad thing is that while they were out at sea, they had very limited phone ability. He was able to text and send photos which Dick enjoyed till close to the end. And we kept Ryan up to date as things progressed as we had promised we would. And finally as the end came near he just communicated with his mother. The blessing is Dick went rapidly quickly, (the way he wanted to) and it did not drag on. Towards the last few days he got very weak and needed lots of help just doing the simplest of tasks. Having gone through this 10 years ago with Sonia I knew what to expect, but it still was hard. But I was so happy I could be there in those final days. Dick and his family were also so thankful I was able to be here for them and help out. He passed peaceful with very little pain at 8:22 PM May 16, 2016 at his home with his sister and me at his side. All of us that knew him will miss his warm smile and joyful spirit. You can read his obituary here online. And one of his fellow dog training friends JoAnn, put together a nice YouTube video tribute to him that you can find at this link.
As you can tell, the month of May will always be a mixed bag of emotions for me both good and sad. But when I get down and start feeling sorry for myself (having a self-pity day). I will be able to remember my dear Sonia and my good friend Dick and realize how lucky I really am, to cherish every day of this life. Thanks for coming along on my life’s journey and best wishes and love to all, Rick