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Old 11-18-2011, 10:47 AM   #61
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Nords, I'm sorry for your loss.

It sounds like your friend had a wonderful family.

Married, both 63. DH retired June, 2010. I have a pleasant little part time job.
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Old 11-18-2011, 11:23 AM   #62
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My sympathies on the loss of your friend. It's always hard to lose someone you love, but his memory will live on in the hundreds of people who very obviously loved and respected him.

Aloha menemene, Nords

Inside me is a skinny person crying to get out, but I can usually shut the b*tch up with cookies
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Old 11-18-2011, 09:11 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by Nords View Post
Major sadness this week. I'm hoping to find a silver lining by writing about it, but I'm not sure there is one. It keeps sneaking up on me and smacking me in the head when I least expect to start thinking about it. I've been sitting on this post for a few days hoping that it'd cool off, but it hasn't. So here goes.

Last week a good friend & neighbor went to work as usual.

He retired from the Army in the late 1990s (after 30 years of service). Based on today's pay tables, his military pension is a tad over $60K/year (with an inflation COLA) minus $460/year for health insurance. However he wanted to pay down his mortgage so he went right into a federal civil-service job supervising a personnel department on an Army base. It's probably a GS-13 position, and in Hawaii you add a 25% cost of living supplement. Knowing his frugal habits, I suspect that he and his spouse were saving over $90K/year.

He and I have been good friends for the last decade, even if we didn't understand each other on the subject of paid employment. He could see that I was reasonably intelligent & fit so he couldn't understand why I had stopped working as soon as I hit 20 years (for a comparatively puny $40K pension). He felt that it was important to have work in his life and he was uncomfortable with retiring before he was completely debt free. He loved golf (several rounds a week) and was astounded that I'd given it up for surfing. At their last Thanksgiving dinner he noted that he'd turn 66 soon and would work for "just one more year" to finish paying off the mortgage. Then he and his spouse would work for "a few more months" to pump an extra $50K cushion into their retirement portfolio before calling it quits. I made the usual joke about "just one more year syndrome" and we moved on to other subjects.

Last week at work he started his usual morning walk-around chatting with his staff, but his sentences didn't make sense and they soon deteriorated into gibberish. He became increasingly incoherent so they called an ambulance and got him to Tripler. I'm not sure what the diagnosis was-- stroke or cerebral hemorrhage-- but the doctors carried out the emergency procedures and eventually began draining fluid from his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. At some point in the ICU he lapsed into unconsciousness. His youngest son and the son's fiancée are Tripler nurses so I'm pretty confident that his dad had the best of attention & care.

His wife said the doctors had explained that it could happen to anyone. He had no visible health risks (and indeed may not have had any health issues). He'd felt fine that morning and neither of them had noticed any warning signs. His work was low-key routine administrivia with lots of autonomy. He was pretty much the civilian boss at his office, with such huge experience & credibility that his supervisors left him to get things done without their help. His biggest "stress" would have been figuring out whether the week's golf foursome should include the general or the colonel.

When I spoke with his wife two days ago, she said he'd regained consciousness that afternoon, made eye contact with her, and squeezed her hand. The doctors started talking rehab.

A few hours after she told me that story, he died. I don't know what happened, and maybe I never will. I was told that it happened very quickly and was unexpected.

He'd been around the Army for nearly five decades, so he had quite the contact network. The general appointed a temporary-duty casualty officer whose sole job is to assist the family for a few months in navigating the benefits bureaucracy. The officers are assigned from a rotating pool, so when one particular major came to work the next morning he was told to pick up his casualty officer orders and contact the family. That's how the major learned that one of his mentors, a man he'd served with nearly two decades ago, had died.

My friend's oldest son is an Army lieutenant colonel. When the major called my friend's home, the son answered the phone. The two of them realized that they'd had a tour together at a previous command. I guess the "good" news is that there will be no bureaucratic logjams.

These two combat officers are regrettably all too familiar with death. Yet as the lieutenant colonel and the major tersely worked through the casualty officer's checklist, using martial jargon like "the body", "the autopsy", "the family members", and "the funeral", tears were streaming down their cheeks.

My friend had his affairs in order. (Hey, he was a personnel specialist.) His widow has the military's survivor benefit plan, his Social Security survivor's benefits, and their savings. He might have been eligible for civil-service pension benefits, so she might get some compensation from that too. He also left her some life insurance. She has a long-term care insurance policy. She knows all their financial accounts and how to handle the bills. Several years ago, he even reserved a grave on a nearby military base so that his spouse wouldn't have to drive "all the way to Punchbowl" to tend it. Two of her sons (and their families) are on the island to help out. They know my spouse and I are just a few doors down for handyman services and rodent control. There won't be any problems.

When she told me her spouse had passed away, I asked what I could do for her. She asked me to walk up to their house and help her clean their lanai with her sons. As we men hauled off the trash and organized the furniture, she said that her spouse had been planning to do this cleanup but had put it off until next weekend. Next month their lanai is going to host their youngest son's wedding reception.

My friend never spoke about his military billets or his deployments-- only about the places they'd been and the people they'd befriended. I'm sure he was assigned to combat zones, but he never mentioned it. I'm sure he has the usual awards & certificates yet I've never seen anything on his walls but family photos. He loved them and they knew it, but he felt that the best way to show his love was to provide for them. He would have felt guilty leaving the workplace before he'd completed what he felt was his duty.

The funeral will be this coming week. I'm honestly hoping that the chapel is crammed too full for my spouse and I to be invited. It was hard enough breaking the news to my spouse over the phone while she was on travel, and we still haven't passed the word to our daughter. We'll get to that in a day or two.

I can't wrap this up with any eloquent lessons learned or other pithy conclusions. I don't have any. Maybe someday I'll blog about it or add it to the book, but I'd much rather be with my friend on his back lanai kidding him about working while I'm surfing.

I would suggest that if you or a loved one is afflicted with "just one more year" syndrome, then this is a fitting opportunity to reflect upon the risks of that approach.
I am sorry for your loss.
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Old 11-19-2011, 07:06 AM   #64
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It always seems the good people leave too soon. However long or short that is.

I am sorry for the loss.
I heard the call to do nothing. So I answered it.
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Old 11-19-2011, 06:12 PM   #65
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Your pain is obvious. I'm sorry for your loss and your friend's family's loss. Your friend made choices based on his best judgement of his needs and responsibilities. It sounds like his family with be taken care of because of his actions. I'm betting that was his primary motivation. It has become a cliche to say it, but none of us come with a guarantee for tomorrow. I feel my family would be fine if tomorrow was my last. If I didn't feel this way, I would do something about it. Your friend did what he felt he needed to do. Each of us make that decision the way we see it. Again, I'm sorry Nords.
Can't you see yourself in the nursing home saying, " Darn! Wish I'd spent more time at the office instead of wasting time with family and friends."
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Old 11-19-2011, 07:03 PM   #66
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Nords, I too am sorry for your loss and pain. Thank you for sharing.
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Old 11-19-2011, 07:19 PM   #67
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Nords, I am really sorry for the loss of your friend. For the last year I have been going over the retirement thing time and time again. I turn 65 in August and was planning on that being my day. After reading this and some other things that has happened in the last few months I may go soon. Thanks for taking time to post this. Tom

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