Just Another Point of View: Some deaths are harder to take
It seems to be a time of dying, and I don't like it much. On May 10, a very dear friend left this earth. For me, it was the third one in little more than half a year, and though some deaths might be labeled as better than others, none of these fall into that category.
The latest one was my friend Louise Faxon. Like the other two, she was a key part of our newspaper family. She was preceded last October by longtime buddy and former Lake Oswego Review Editor Martin Forbes and then, three months later, by a member of our newspaper design team, Lance Ogden.
To recap the most grisly of details, Martin succumbed to esophageal cancer, Lance died of liver failure (most likely involving cancer), and Louise met perhaps the cruelest end of all, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig's disease.
She was 62.
There was nothing remotely acceptable about the loss of Martin Forbes last fall. He was diagnosed with cancer just a few short years into his retirement (during which he and the other person who lives at our house had begun going for long Wednesday walks, a tradition continued by Martin's wife, Carolyn, myself and an assortment of other mostly retired friends) — and in about a year he was gone. He was 66.
Lance, on the other hand, passed at the much more tender age of 51 — but it certainly can be argued that he brought a lot of it on himself with his many poor decisions, including heavy-duty partying and higher-than-average alcohol intake and (in my own humble opinion) an over-reliance on prescription drugs to fight off pain resulting from an auto accident.
However, even if one can somehow find the wisdom and worldiness to truly accept the fact that we are, after all, going to die sooner or later, and one way or another, the death of Louise Faxon has been, to pretty much anyone who knew her, an outrage. And if you are one of those who chooses to put everything that happens in this world at the feet of a creator, you also must admit that he, she or it has one nasty sense of humor, to treat this particular woman that particular way.
I once described Louise as a saint — for the sunny, cheerful way she greeted even the most obnoxious among us (including radio station management people, who would come up from their basement offices and yell at her simply for forwarding phone calls to them) — and the term "saint" was no exaggeration. Once the head of the classified advertising department, she was offered the office receptionist job and took it because she needed the paycheck. And while she was at it, she was easily the best receptionist in the history of our little company.
I'm sure of that because I've known them all.
My old friend, writer and editor Nancy Lashbrook Townsley, described Louise on Facebook as a "supplier of sweet smiles, small kindnesses and lasting loving impressions," and I couldn't have said it better.
The mother of an autistic daughter, Louise was helping care for an aging mother, a banged-up husband recovering from back surgery and years of driving a truck for a well-known soda-pop company, plus a daughter with a new grandchild when she received her dastardly diagnosis.
It is true that she and husband Dan squeezed in some good times that last year or so. They went to Hawaii, spent extra time at a friend's house at the coast and took a cruise to Alaska. But she had so many more, much grander plans for their retirement years. She was going to return to Europe and do many of the things the rest of us take for granted.
In the final few years of my career, I was accepted as a member of Louise's carpool. She and Mary Ratcliff, our longtime newsroom statistics specialist (a feisty Brit who refused to accept that she might be even a little bit American), picked me up on their way to Lake Road from Garden Home. We'd zoom down Taylors Ferry Road to Macadam, across the Sellwood Bridge and over to our office in Milwaukie. Along the way, they'd quiz me on the "male perspective" of whatever subject they'd been discussing — and no, I almost never was able to shed any light on any of it (an identical problem I have at home when I'm asked to explain, "how it feels to be a man").
Eventually, Louise would suggest that maybe they shouldn't torture me with such questions and change the subject to something less dramatic. But it was always entertaining, and we agreed in later years that those were some of the best of times, slogging through traffic solving the problems of the world. As noted here some time back, Mary left us in 2016. We never knew for sure how old she was because she was not only private, but also quite devious.
Finally, you should understand that Louise's idea of cursing was to utter a loud "Jeepers!" — which I think said as much about her as anything.
I'm telling you, she was a saint.
If there's a moral to this story, it may be this: Don't wait. If you really hope to someday do something, do it, and do it soon. If you're waiting for some magical time in the future when everything will be in place and allow you to pursue your dreams, stop it. If Louise Faxon, with her exemplary attitude and abilities, can be robbed of the simplest pleasures, it certainly can happen to you — or me.
Mikel Kelly retired four years ago from the tawdry yet enchanting world of weekly newspapers. One of his greatest pleasures these days is spouting off on topics like this.