Last month, Rick and I had just come home from a weekend away when the phone rang. I was helping Zack with homework when Rick walked into the bedroom with a stricken look on his face and said, "We need to talk."
That's never good.
And it wasn't. Stan passed away from a chronic disease and only a few members of his family knew and then only a little before it happened. It rocked our Air Force family of linguists. Rocked it to the core, I dare say. He was an icon, someone people knew about if they didn't know him personally. Those who knew him personally were forever touched by him in some way -- by his amazing talents, how he always had people's backs and wasn't afraid to stand up for friends, by his dry sense of humor.
I knew him not only from Korea but from reuniting for a time after I left the Air Force and started college. The photo above is from my first trip to visit him after leaving Korea in 1991, so that places the photo from 1997. (That smile! Why does it make me cry now?)
It was an amazing trip for a million reasons, but one was the intense conversations. We kept up those intense conversations via email and letter, and I'm so lucky to have kept paper copies of many of them. At the time, we were both pretty damaged souls, and I feel that during those visits, we helped heal a few hurts.
When I left Korea, he and I had started to really bond. It was bittersweet, my leaving the Air Force, but I knew I'd done my tour, and as much as my heart tugged at me to stay in and make it a career, I suppose my brain knew I still had a lot of things to do in life. Stan believed the same thing for me.
One night, before I left, he gave me a present.
Stan gave me a book from his own shelves, a book by the philosopher Nietzsche. He had marked it all up, underlined and highlighted passages, written in the margins -- it was his favorite book, he said, and he was passing it on to me. Those kinds of gifts are just intensely personal and amazing, and indicative of the type of person he was -- generous to a fault for those he cared about.
When I took the book off the shelf the day Stan died, a letter fell out.
I have opened and closed that book so many times. Yet I had never found the letter he hid between the pages until the day he died. A love letter, and it tore my heart up. I had other such letters from him, but to have one show up, suddenly, hidden since 1991..... chills. A message. I needed it. No one can tell me that wasn't divine intervention.
Sigh. This post really stinks as a eulogy to him, but I've tried writing it a million times and this is what I can write. The rest is in my heart. I left out far more than I could have put in, but I've shared it all with his son and will be sending him copies of the letters and pictures I have. And I hope his son doesn't mind me sharing the following photo, because it helps heal my heart to know that Stan's last years in particular were so joyful to him because of his grandson. I've never heard him talk with such complete and total peace.
I miss you, Stan. You are loved. Not were. Are.
Lori Anderson creates jewelry and bead kits as well as collaborative mixed media art with her son, Zack. Visit her shops by clicking on the right side bar of this blog (please and thank you!). She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party® and author of the book "Bead Soup".