Saying Goodbye To Our NOSHA Friends

In the past month, two members of our community died only a few weeks apart and we should take a moment to remember them fondly.

First, there was Tina Lovine Missildine from Marrero, age 48, who died on January 21. Tina had attended our first NOSHA banquet in 2009 with Percy Prestenbach and had been a long time member. Next there was Scott Major who died on February 3 after a brief illness. Many of you met Scott (who also attended our first NOSHA banquet with his girlfriend, Renee Gunnells) when he could make it to our monthly meetings over the past year. He was a regular on our Google Group generally stirring up passions and keeping the conversation lively. Both Scott and Tina were parents, had interests they enjoyed and were one of our many non-believing friends.

It’s been several years since one of our closely tethered group passed away. Serena Bodellini passed away in October 2009 and was a member of the NOSHA board of directors. One thing that all three of these lovely people have in common is that they each had events celebrating their lives with no mention of worshipping a deity or other overly religious element involved. This is a refreshing trend in the 21st century and one that all of us should consider in depth – how we see the end of our lives unfolding for our friends and family. I always say to myself that I will get my will written and write a few ideas down “officially” for my “end of life” ceremony, but since I don’t have kids or a major desire to deal with my death realistically, it’s on the list where it stays.

Scott Major’s untimely death forced me to accept that the luxury of waiting may not always be there for me or anyone I hold dear in my life. Like all of us, one day he was walking down the street enjoying his morning and the next thing he knew, he’s being taken into emergency surgery to repair his dissected aorta, the defective organ that he never knew he had. From that moment  on, his life, had he been able to recover slowly, would have consisted of caution and concern. And the awareness that things can change for you in a minute, just like my mother always told me they could. Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people and that’s happened here.

At times like this, I’m very sensitive to why having a religious belief is a comfort to people who haven’t explored the possibility that it may be a fairy tale. I wanted to pray for Scott, to talk to a god about how this time he needs to step in, make this right and save our friend. What could possibly be fair about striking down this 40-something man? I wanted to pray for Scott the way I wanted to pray for my brother and mother who’ve died in the past few years, but, you know, I couldn’t. Not believing in a god is a very lonely place to be when you realize that all of us may simply just be lucky: to not get that disease, to not be strolling down that street, to not find ourselves in that ill body.

And I think that’s why I’m not too puzzled by my anger. I’m very angry about what happened to Scott. That he didn’t have more time to stabelize and get back to his life, to visit with friends and family a little longer, to eat some favorite food, to go on one last trip, maybe. To do all of the things we take for granted. I’m sure he, Tina and Serena would tell me that this is the one thing about dying that none of us can prepare for easily.  Serena said to me that one disappointment for her was just when NOSHA seemed to have more activities and was starting take off since Katrina, she simply couldn’t depend on her body to let her participate. She was always fighting a serious condition that made her extremely tired. Truly, the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.

When my father found out he had lung cancer, he was home recovering from surgery one December many years ago while I was on holiday from college. I remember sitting with him and he still seemed vibrant and healthy to me, even if neither of us realized he was at the beginning of a slow decline. That I could be with him daily pretending that somehow this was going to turn out differently were some of my fondest memories, because if it hadn’t been for his illness, he would have been at work and I wouldn’t have had a chance for this time with him. Ironic. But still being able to process how lucky we felt, if only for the moment, gave me the time to start understanding what was to come.

Some of us don’t get the chance to pretend that life will be different, to pretend that maybe we’ll be lucky this time. I will always wish that Scott Major did.