Thank You For Being A Friend

Unfortunately, it happens to be the name of a less-than-great song — one that probably now will stick in your head for the rest of the day, sad to say — but the statement above is a sentiment that aptly expresses my feelings, so I’m using it anyway.

I’ve been amazed and touched by the kind words and comments we have received from friends and acquaintances in the wake of Mom’s death.  Whether it is memories shared by my best friend in high school and my college roommate, or a poem and expressions of sadness and support from colleagues at work, or a funny recollection from one of the very nice people who cared for Mom during her time at Mayfair Village Retirement Community, the outpouring of positive thoughts means a great deal.  They help to center the conflicting feelings that you experience when a loved one has finally succumbed to a long and difficult illness, and to focus and lock in on the positive memories that you will carry with you going forward.  It is affirming, too, to know that there are so many good people out there who will interrupt their days and act with a generous spirit when others are struggling with loss.

We will move on, of course, because that is what people do — and, in this case, what Mom obviously would have wanted us to do — but all of these positive and supportive thoughts will make the moving on process much, much easier.  I know that everyone in the Webner family feels the same way.

I am a strong proponent of saying “thank you” in response to offers of help and acts of kindness — so thank you to everyone.  We really appreciate it.

Life Lessons On A Cold And Snowy Night

About 50 years ago, on a bitterly cold and snowy night in Akron, Ohio, I learned two valuable lessons.

Grandma and Grandpa Neal had taken UJ and me to a University of Akron basketball game. When we walked back to the car after the game we saw that it had snowed, and Grandpa’s gigantic Oldsmobile 98 was half-buried under the blowing and drifting snow. He tried to clear away the snow, but it was obvious from the sound of spinning tires that he was stuck — and there was no way that two elderly people and two little boys were going to shove that 3,000-pound tank to a clear spot.

Fortunately, before we knew it our car was surrounded by college students and other men who had gone to the game. They lowered their shoulders and bent to the task, rocking the car as Grandpa slowly accelerated. At one point a student next to the passenger side rapped at the window, looked in at Grandma, and said: “Is it warm in there?” It made her laugh, and it was a line she recalled with a smile for the rest of her life. After a few more rocks we were over the hump and free. Grandpa got out, thanked the men, they wished us a cheery good night, and we drove off.

The first lesson — essential if you want to live in the Midwest — is how to free a car that is stuck in the snow. You don’t gun the engine and floor it; you’ll just dig yourself deeper and never get out. You need to work with your helpers, patiently going back and forth by incremental degrees, to rock the car out of the rut. And when your car is free, you need to be careful not to coat the Good Samaritans who helped you with a spray of snow and slush as you pull away.

The second lesson is that there are good people out there who help complete strangers who need help, no strings attached. Now, when I see someone who needs a hand — a neighbor whose car can’t make it up their icy driveway, or a Mom whose station wagon got stuck when taking her kids sledding — I think of those nice men who assisted us so long ago and always stop and do what I can to help them out. The Good Samaritans are still out there, and we should all strive to be one of them.

Jim Tressel Is A Good Man

I wasn’t going to write about this, because I viewed it as a wonderful personal gesture made out of friendship and decency, not something done for any kind of publicity. However, Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal has written about it, so I thought I’d add my two cents’ worth.

On Saturday, we had a celebration service for Aunt Bebe. To our surprise and delight, former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel was there. He had established a correspondents’ relationship with Aunt Bebe, as Ridenour describes, and he also visited Aunt Bebe in her final days. He wanted to pay his respects and share some thoughts about her.

What’s more, Coach Tressel was there even though he was squeezing his visit between an important morning meeting for the University of Akron, where he currently works, and an equally significant impending family obligation. Many people — even those who aren’t famous — would have begged off without a second thought. Not Coach Tressel!

It was a kind and classy gesture by a kind and classy man. We in Aunt Bebe’s family appreciated it, not only because it help to celebrate a loved one’s life but also because it showed there are still good people in the world. It helps to be reminded of that from time to time.

Jim Tressel is one of those good people. Thank you, Coach Tressel, for your thoughtfulness and kind gesture!

Following The Kidney Chain

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are wonderful people living in the world.  It’s great when you are reminded that the world is filled with decent, kind people who will help you if they possibly can.

Consider the story of the longest recorded organ donation chain, which just ended.  It began when a Good Samaritan from California named Rick Russamenti decided to donate one of his kidneys to help a stranger.  His kidney went to a New Jersey man whose family wanted to donate one of their kidneys but did not have an appropriate match — so a family member donated a kidney to go a stranger instead, and the chain began.  Thereafter, over four months and 11 states, the chain cross-crossed the United States, and 30 patients received kidneys from 30 living donors.  The chain ended only when the last kidney recipient had no family or friends who could make a donation.

It’s hard to think of many acts more selfless than donating a kidney to a stranger, because you never know when you might need that kidney yourself.  The fact that 30 people were willing to do so says something heart-warming about modern America.