This I Believe

Michael - Rochester, New York
Entered on August 8, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65



I should have known. One of the problems of growing old is enduring the pain of loosing one’s mentors’, friends. I was horribly shocked when the call came. The news hit me like a 2 x 4. Len and I discussed life and death at length for the many years, I’m proud to say, we knew each other.

We were in great agreement on the finality of our existence on earth as breathing human beings and upon death we reflected with joint amusement at how some people, would seemingly torture their family and friends with elaborate wakes, funerals and cemetery headstones.

Len had a measured composure, and a friendly affable demeanor when I met him thru a mutual good friend, Grace XX. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, that he was a Master Mason, by his unselfish offerings to others. Before I knew him he was, “Mister Chocolate”, a proud representative for the World’s Finest Chocolate Co. Before that he had several careers, leading a busy life.

When I fell on personal hard times and lost my income, Len was there, INSISTING that I take his hand and a no-interest loan. Len was a giver. He gave me his time. Time after time I’d call Len for advice on punctuation, verbiage and letter writing. He always encouraged me to write. Nor was he above asking for help when even he, was sometimes stumped, with a crossword puzzle. Len was an articulate conveyor of sound thinking and enjoyed debating media “news”. (He sometimes referred to the local paper that is called the “DEMOCRAT and CHRONICLE” as the DEMOCRAP & CHRONICLE), that always got a chuckle out of me!

Len loved cats. In fact, I met Len at a cat club meeting. He was very supportive and empathetic for animal welfare. Grace Sutton gave him a couple of cats. He, of course, rescued another and named him Scamper. A few years ago, Len and I assisted a couple of Rochester, New York area veterinarians and many, many concerned cat lovers as ourselves, in rescuing over 68 neglected cats found in squalid conditions. Len shuttled many of the stabilized cats and kittens out to nearby Wayne County Humane Society in his car, to give them a chance. That was Len, quiet, steady and caring. He knew what had to be done and he took it upon himself to assist. He donated his time, money and LOVE.

I would call or visit Len, 5 days a week, sometimes on the weekend. Why, just last week I stopped by and fixed him bacon and eggs. He was so thrilled to smell the bacon. And true to his sharing nature, he took a bite of bacon for himself, more to test the heat of it, and promptly shared a yummy morsel with his sweet cat Domino. Then he insisted I partake of some of this feast too. I enjoyed this meal with Len and his furry little charges, not realizing all his preparations for leaving us would hit so soon. I should have known.

Recently, Len asked those of us that knew him to, “not distress my cats when I go”. He rehearsed with me several times, exactly how things would go, once the Great Architect opened his arms to receive Len. “I don’t want STRANGERS chasing my cats around here when I’m gone. The boys (referring to his neighbors) and you, Mike, if you’re available, can catch them. Please, do not distress my cats when I go”.

I once told Len a story of my own father trying to reach me__when I didn’t return his page fast enough for his liking he called again and said, “Mike, please call your dear old man, someday you’ll miss me.” Len got a kick out of that story and added to it, saying, “I’m sure sometimes that’s the best someone can hope for”. That was Len, articulating his own thoughts, voicing his own thinking and hoping to someday himself be missed.

Well, he need not have feared then, as now because we all miss him and will continue to miss him. He laid the foundation for some immortality however, by his numerous kind and thoughtful acts. His was an enduring and affirmative spirit. Len recently sent me an article that ended with, and I quote, “WE DON’T ALWAYS WANT ANSWERS OR ADVICE. SOMETIMES WE JUST WANT COMPANY.” This I believe, I should have known.

When death strikes, it is a terrible blow and the pain is tremendous. Last night I gathered up Len’s cats, Domino, Donder and Scamper. I placed them in carriers and took them home with me. After I got them settled in __they looked at me with enigmatic stares, as I part sang, part spoke, then part cried, SWING LOW, SWEET CHARIOT.

Now today, as yesterday, after I pray that my friend, Len finds eternal peace and happiness, I will study and pet his 3 cats and learn what _THIS I BELIEVE, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.