I am wearing a green bracelet right now, one of those rubber ones that they make in every color for every cause. The one I am wearing says “GOOD “DEEDS”” on it. I got it today, at a place I wish I didn’t have to go…the calling hours for Bob Dedrick, the brother of an old and very dear friend of mine.
Bob died June 13 after battling with stomach cancer since last fall. I hate to even type the word cancer. I have known so many people with cancer, seen so many people who should still be here taken away by cancer, and even some who have “beat” cancer but are still keeping a wary eye out for its return.
I hate cancer. I hate cancer so much that if it were a person, I think I could kill it with my bare hands. I am furious that there is no cure. I have read heart-wrenching stories on the internet, and now I know a real life one. Bob has a wife. He has two tiny kids who will probably not really remember much of what he was like with them.
I went to the calling hours thinking that I could just breeze through and give some hugs to my friend and her family. I didn’t know Bob very well. I probably haven’t spoken to him since the early 2000s. I remember him as annoyed, mostly. When I would go over to his house to hang out with his sister in high school, we got loud. Loud and loud, and then a little louder. And we laughed… a LOT. And I kind of remember Bob as rolling his eyes at me, mostly. Thinking I was kind of a dork. In my head, he has always been “Bobby Deed.” I don’t know if I ever had the guts to call him that to his face.
But there is one memory that I have of Bob that has stayed sharp in my memory…for what I think is 17 years. It is of him, at the front of the old Methodist church that we all attended, trying to give a speech at his own mother’s funeral after her own battle with cancer. The words came out, sort of. They were mostly just strangled off noises and gulps and sobs. And I remember thinking, my gosh, poor Bob, why is he up there?
At the calling hours today, there was a wait to get inside. Not a short wait, either. I think I stood in line for 45 minutes to give a handful of hugs. I stayed for a few hours, occasionally seeing old friends from high school or parents of old friends from high school. And that line never abated. It was still there when I left, half an hour before calling hours were supposed to end.
“Deeds” was a force in his city and he was admired in his community. Yes, he was a husband, brother, son… but he was also a teacher, coach, mentor, and friend. The few hours I spent in Canandaigua today were enough to shake me awake, to question my career, my ambitions, the kind of friend I am, the kind of citizen I am, the kind of wife I am, basically everything that I have been doing for the past several years.
It’s hard to imagine my own death, my own calling hours, my own remembrances. I am sure there would be some good ones. But I want a line out to the street. I want to live my life like that. I want to give like that.
Good “Deeds” indeed.