As a reporter for the Missourian, I am required to write at least one life story. A Missourian-style life story is like an eulogy, except with more fact than just praise.
I wrote my first today. The deceased is Charles Atkins, a prominent person in Columbia.
In addition to being a family- and business man, he was also an army veteran (Korean and Vietnam wars), a strong peace advocate and a fisherman “through and through” (his wife’s description).
Yesterday was the very first time I called to speak to his wife, Ellen. I just sat in my chair for a solid 10-minutes, staring at my phone. That was also the first time I had ever had to prepare myself to talk to a stranger. But then again, I am not good at dealing with grief and death.
I had to remind myself about how Mom is always telling people how I’m the outgoing one in the family and how I have never been shy of talking to strangers. I didn’t want this story to be an example of how I proved my mother wrong (even though it is fun – proving her wrong, I mean. Not that I get to do it much).
Finally I told myself to “just do it” (thank you, Nike) and dialed Ellen’s number. Luckily for me (and unluckily for the story), Ellen could not talk at the time and asked me to call her back. When I did, she was “grieving and drinking wine.” Not surprisingly, I did not get to speak to her the rest of the day.
Surprisingly, she called me today morning. She was very calm and collected (insert Hercule Poirot moment).
We talked and after we were done, she said it was lovely talking to me. I don’t know why, but that made me slightly uncomfortable.
There are no words that can do justice to a life lived. But I have made an attempt (and no, Yoda’s “do or do not” quote does not apply here).