Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chapter Another Part

L - r: Pat Carder, me in the back, Mom, B.J. (Jeannie)
My two older (11 and 7 years) sisters and Mom.

Life Goes On
By the age of eleven, I had spent a night alone in the dessert, crossed an ocean during a tumultuous storm coming to Hawaii, and experienced a tsunami and an erupting Volcano.
As I was emerging from childhood, my two older sisters were becoming adults. Pat married Bill Humphey, a marine pilot. He died in a horrific plane crash in Kailua Bay, 1958. Two years later Jeannie married Bob Fabricius, a marine pilot. He died in a horrific plane crash off of the north shore of Oahu, 1960. Neither of these crashes were their fault. Bill’s plane caught fire. He got the plane out over water and tried to land it. It flipped and pinned him cockpit down in about thirty feet of water, where he drowned.
Bob was night flight training with another jet out off the north shore of Oahu. Completing their evening training, they came back into formation to return to Kaneohe Marine Air Station. Bob was the lead jet. The other plane coming in behind him, miss judged, and clipped the canopy of Bob’s plane. It went straight into a nose dive and into twelve hundred feet of deep, sea-blue water.
I was only eleven when Bill died. By the time I turned thirteen, Bob was dead as well.
These two guys, Bill and Bob, where for me really cool guys. They were friendly, cheerful, considerate, and polite; pretty good choices by my sisters with whom they wanted to share a lifetime. Mom and Dad liked both of them as well. Bill and Bob became part of our family. They were always at our house. It was a hang out place. They became part of our family. Then suddenly, tragically they where not part of our family, that we could physically be with. Still, they’ve always remained part of my life. When your eleven years old or thirteen, to have a brother-in-law who is a pilot, that is really cool. I used to make model airplanes of the planes that they flew. They even helped me with the decals to show me exactly where the decals belonged.

A sudden and totally unexpected death like this is an amputation. Of course it is not a physical amputation. It is an emotional and mental amputation. A slow death is just as painful, I’m sure. But, a sudden death has the added dimension of shock. This shock may be good or bad. When Bill died, I had been out and away from home. When I arrived back at my house, I knew something was up.
Gee, I remember cars parked in our driveway and along the front of our house on the street. The front door was open. I recognized the cars. What? I went in and Lynn Wade and Emily Sasaki were there in the living room. They both saw me as I stood there listening to Pat crying out in our lana’i. I heard Lynn say, ‘Bob, Bill had a plane crash and he’s dead!’
For Lynn to say this, so matter-of-factly like she did, was the way it should have been said. Lynn was obviously a very well educated person. I never saw an adult read as many books as she did. She treated me, my sisters, her kids, everyone the same. Both of my sisters had a close relationship with Chuck and Lynn. I always had the same great respect for her and Chuck. It’s interesting. I will explain something about that later.
Bill was buried at Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu. They never recovered Bob’s body. There’s an inscription at Punchbowl for him.
Both Pat and Jeannie moved on in their lives. Pat is married to Dave Carder. A really wonderful guy. He treated me much like an older brother in so many ways.
Jeannie married Vern Pfannenstiel, also a wonderful guy.
All families have tragedies, I would think. I do believe my own life pales in comparison to so many people when it comes to comparing personal tragedies. I have no idea if what I am going to say next of my sisters is going to make any sense or have any meaning for you. But, first, I want to share another little story.
I am a plumber, among other things. I was at a residence on Sandpiper Court in Hayward, California, looking at a coffee can protruding through a concrete patio with a sewer pipe in it. This sewer line was clogged and definitely needed to be cleaned. The residence was full of kids with a mother and father.
A thought occurred to me that this coffee can had some significance, but I could not put my finger on it. The top rim was cut out of the can protruded through the concrete where it stuck above the finished patio surface about a half of an inch. The owners had set a large potted plant on top of it to hide this ugly thing. But now with the backed up sewer it had been rolled off to be exposed.
As the wife of this residence was showing me this coffee can protruding through the patio concrete surface, I thought maybe she and her mother had some connection with this coffee can. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea why I thought that. But it was an idea as clear as the ugly coffee can itself.
I cleared their line and had the house wife check all the drains in the house to make sure everything was okay. It was. She was standing there asking me what I thought caused this. It was roots in the line, I told her.
Meanwhile, I was still wondering about the coffee can.
I couldn’t resist the temptation to sound silly, so I had to ask her, ‘I have this crazy idea you have a connection with your Mom and this coffee can.'
She looked at me strangely as anybody would and I was fully expecting a remark like, ‘What are you talking about?’ But, instead, she said. ‘My mother passed away just recently. This house used to belong to my dad and her. I inherited it from her. She hated this coffee can. She was really upset that my dad put this stupid coffee can here instead of making a completed pipe to the surface. You know, nice and clean.’
What could I say? Of course I said I was sorry for her loss. My own mother and father had also passed away, only years earlier.
As she was looking at me trying to understand how a complete stranger could know of such a personal family matter, I went on to further explain, “One morning, maybe twenty years ago, I was visited by my grandmother with whom I was very close. She’d been dead for quite a few years. I always wondered, how she was. Nevertheless, on that morning when I awoke, I realized my grandmother, Mimi, was there. She had a big grin on her face which told me, not in words, that everything was great. It was her way of letting me know not to worry about her and that she was fine, happy… that everything was great. When I was fully awake, all I could say was, “Wow!”
About a month later, another similar situation occurred. Again, just as I was awakening, a Southern Ute High School boy named Joe came to me and said, again, not in words, “Tell Lisa, not to worry! I’m (Joe) fine!
“What?” I thought to myself as sat up and rubbed my eyes. There I sat, stunned. “Wow!”
Joe was an acquaintance of mine. I had met him through Lisa, his girl friend. Lisa was the daughter of Sue who was a close friend of mine. I was living in Durango, Colorado at the time. That morning, I drove out to Sue’s home in Ignacio which is about twenty miles away. When I arrived and walked up to her house, Sue met me at the door with tears in her eyes. She said, ‘Oh Bob, I’m so glad you are here. Last night Joe was walking along the highway and he was struck and killed in a hit and run. Lisa is beside herself in grief."
I went in and then shared with Lisa what had occurred that morning, with Joe coming to me and wanting me to let her know that he was okay. I went on to tell her how he didn’t want her to worry. This seemed to give Lisa some comfort in her state of shock and grief.
I stood there relating this to this housewife which seemed to be exactly what I was supposed to do. She said, ‘I’ve been in a state of grief ever since my mom passed away. Thank you for sharing your story with me. I have been wondering deeply how she is. Now I think I know. Thank you!
So, now having shared this interesting event, I would like to share this. I don’t believe life ends here. I believe life is only better and full of goodness after this life, but here’s the catch. You can only partake of that greater goodness by what you take with you from this life. Although infant deaths here are tragic, there is only goodness for them in the next.

The photograph of my sister Pat, Mom, BJ (Jeannie) and me was taken two days after my father passed away and Jeannie’s husband Vern passed away. Both within twenty-four hours. At the time, my mom was living in Birmingham, Alabama, the same city as Pat and Dave. Jeannie and Vern were living in Las Vegas. As a family we didn’t know which way to go. Pat, of course, stayed there to help my mom while I flew from Maui to Las Vegas. After Pat and my mom got dad into his resting place, they flew to Las Vegas where they joined Jeannie and I.

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