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Ash Wednesday, and the deaths of Spring

If you go back and check in history, February through May is traditionally a pretty grim time. Oh, yeah, we've got the whole "burgeoning life" thing going on, with lambs and kids and calves being born, cats running around pregnant (lots of kitties are birthed in April), etc. But that truth is balanced by a pretty high body count.

By February, the food is running really thin (it is not an accident that Lenten fasting neatly corresponds with low food reserves), cold and the ravages of winter have taken their toll on the very young and the very old, and being cooped up inside means that if one person gets sick, everyone probably does. In days before "modern medicine," that sometimes meant a simple cold could kill you.

You would think that with all the modern amenities (fresh fruit and vegetables in abundant supply in February), OTC and prescription medicines, central heating, etc., that things would change.

Not so much.

Not even touching on the appalling catalog of deaths in my own family and those dear to me who died in the Februarys of the past, in this February ALREADY my cousin has died, my friend Bobbie died, Phil's mom died, and Kat died (as well as friends and relatives of friends who aren't personally known to me).

Of them all, Bobbie's has hit me hardest, which is silly, because she was elderly, had a great day Saturday, started to feel "off" on Sunday, was taken to the hospital and died that night. Happy and reasonably active and healthy to nearly the end. But Bobbie and I shared something. I remember at one meeting of Chapter I was talking about my childhood and mentioned that my dad worked at GE. Her little head popped up (Bobbie was 4'10"--everything about her was little except her brain and her heart), and said, "Was your father Little Tommy Mink?" Okay, no one but my father's aunts had ever called him "Tommy" in my hearing, but..."Yes, my dad's name was Tom." For years my father gave one of his co-workers a ride to work since his path from our house out in the boondocks took him through the village of Clinton. A couple of times when he was taking the family to Utica (for doctor's appointments, so we would ride in with dad at 5 in the morning and get dropped off at my grandmother's) I even got to meet her. But I was still surprised when Bobbie said, "He drove my mom to work! Did he ever mention Margie Dawes?" And so we talked about our parents.

Bobbie, at least by reputation, knew my father. The number of people still in my life who can say that are vanishingly small. And Wednesday I said goodbye to one of those people. A lovely little kindergarten teacher, who knew my daddy.

T.S. Eliot was wrong. April is not the cruelest month.