“My cardinal song is a call to you”

Speak their names

cardinal maleAfter my father-in-law, Richard Powell died on April 22, I received over 125 comments on Facebook. That was very nice. My wife isn’t on Facebook, and I don’t blame her, frankly.

She received about 30 sympathy cards. You know, the ones you buy in a store, sent via the United States Postal Service. Many were from members of our church, and the rest from friends and present or former colleagues. Quite a few included lengthy hand-written notes of condolences. It was very clear that the messages were based on their own experiences of grief.

One, in particular, included an extended note recommending the book Healing After Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman, which I was able to download for free from here.

Hickman writes about the time after the services are over – and for my FIL, the services haven’t even taken place. “Now there are spaces in the mind, spaces in the days and nights. Often, when we least expect it, the pain and the preoccupation come back, and back—sometimes like the rolling crash of an ocean wave, sometimes like the slow ooze after a piece of driftwood is lifted and water and sand rise to claim their own once more.”

I didn’t leave; love never dies

Another enclosure in a sympathy card was two poems, Speak their names and Red Feathered Soul. The latter was written by Elle Bee.

You might think cynically about Red Feathered Soul, considering it mawkishly sentimental, and I understand that.
“My cardinal song is a call to you
To tell you that I miss you too.”

But the day after my FIL died, my wife and one of her brothers saw a cardinal. At least a half dozen times in the two weeks after he died, my wife and I saw a cardinal in our backyard when usually we see one or two per year. And neither my wife or I had actually heard a cardinal sing in our yard until this month. Make of it what you will.

Today would have been Richard Powell’s 84th birthday.

Richard Powell (1936-2020)

“Hammerin’ Harmon”

The late Richard Powell, me, the late Les Green
My father-in-law Richard Powell and I bonded over baseball. He loved the game, and I had grown up with it, even having a big baseball card collection in the 1960s and early 1970s. When he moved to Oneonta in the early 1990s, he usually had season tickets to the minor league farm team, first for the Yankees and then, from 1999 to 2009, the Tigers.

Richard was an avid, and serious fan. He kept score of the games in a series of ledgers And by “keeping score”, I mean recording every out or hit of every batter. He was so reliable that the official scorekeeper, the person who decides whether that was a hit or a fielder’s error, occasionally called on him for his expertise.

We went to the exhibition games in Cooperstown nearly annually through 2008. No way would we drive to Cooperstown. We took the bus, which was much more civilized. And much cheaper, as the local homeowners charged exorbitant fees to park on their plot of land. He became quite expert at picking out the old-timers who would be in town to sign memorabilia.

We even went to a New York Yankees game on Father’s Day weekend 2015, which I wrote about here.

Minnesota Twins

His favorite player was Harmon Killebrew, who hit 573 home runs for the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins in an era when reaching 500 homers was an achievement. He’s still 12th all-time among home run leaders. He led the league in that stat six times and all of major league baseball five.

Richard’s persona was like the play of another one of his favorite players, Kirby Puckett. Not ostentatious but steady, reliable, showing when necessary a surprising bit of power.

And in October 2019, Richard seemed quite healthy and vital. Then he got what seemed to mimic a bad flu, which lingered into the new year. He had excessive calcium, which was treated by his doctor. But he spent about a week at a hospital in Oneonta, and another week and a half in a hospital in Schenectady, taking an ambulance 75 miles between the two.

Finally, he was diagnosed with Angioimmunoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma. It’s a rare form of lymphoma. While there were medical options presented, none were particularly attractive. So we were told he had about a year to live around Presidents Day. Four weeks later, and after a number of falls it was suddenly only another month to go.

As it turned out, his wife and three surviving children were all present on the day he died, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Expect more on Richard Powell, especially if/when I find that picture of the two of us in Cooperstown.