♪♫ R-E-S-P-E-C-T ♫♪

Respect.  My favorite definition?  “A positive feeling of esteem for a person or other entity; it can be a specific feeling of regard for the actual qualities of the one respected.  To admire one deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”

I heard that word more than once last night.  Mark’s boys and I attended the annual Texas Master Naturalists Rolling Plains chapter Christmas party.  Mark served as chapter advisor and actually began the whole group several years back.  In the beginning, it was a lot of work on his part, getting together lesson plans, scheduling lecturers for the classes, planning activities….and some of that took time away from us.  I ashamedly admit now that, at the time, I resented the extra time it took away from our family.  As the chapter grew, members stepped up and took alot of that from him, and I was so appreciative. 

They do good work, putting in major volunteer hours in many areas of the community, whether cleaning shorelines for wildlife and anglers, to helping sink fish habitat (used Christmas trees & cement blocks) in area lakes, or various other outdoor conservation activities.  Mark was very proud of the group.

But it was hard, walking into that room last night without him.  He loved a party.  He was usually the first to come and among the last to go.  Folks naturally gravitated to him, wherever we might be, he was just outgoing, engaging, and friendly.  Plus he was alot of fun. 

I had several of the chapter members come up to me and tell me how much they thought of him, how much he is missed.  And almost every one of them used that same word…they “respected” him.  That, my friends, is a great testament to that guy’s life.  And they didn’t respect him necessarily in the way that you respect your elders, or some ancient professor that you must defer to because of his knowledge…he was respected because he lived what he taught.  He had no qualms about telling you exactly what he thought, and could do it with dignity and scientific forethought.  He was fair.  He would give anyone the benefit of a doubt, he would give you the shirt off his back.  He loved sharing his knowledge and views on everything from conservation to hunting to fishing to college football and major league baseball. 

Before meeting him, I’d never known anyone who was always in a good mood.  And I’m not saying this because he’s gone, or trying to sugar coat what we had.  The man was always happy.  He always had a smile on his face.  Sometimes for me, it could be infuriating, especially if I was trying to stay mad at him.  Not that I was mad at him very often.  He greeted each day with a “What are we going to do today, God?”…while I, most of the time, bury my head under the covers and mumble, “God, can I just sleep for another 30 minutes?”

Those folks last night miss him.  They miss him in a totally different way than my family does.  But it is both sad and comforting to know that he is missed by so many, on so many different levels. 

I’m not sure what the rest of the month will hold.  We haven’t even gotten Christmas decorations out yet.  My annual Christmas letter, I haven’t even started.  Our Christmas card, always filled with candid, fun family photos?  Not even on my radar.  Folks may get them around January 1 at this rate.  Went for my normal 6 month checkup yesterday and cried like a baby to my doctor and her nurse.  What’s up with that?  I think I’m doing pretty well, and then the bottom falls out. 

Evidently, I’m not doing as well as I think, and the doctor gave me a new prescription, just to get me through the next 3 to 4 months.  I continue to need your prayers.  My boys do, too. 

We’ll jet off to Florida next week, but we will be taking our grief with us.  I’m hoping we can at least shove it into a suitcase, or under the bed at the resort, for a few hours at a time.  Folks tell me that Disney is great at distracting you from reality.  And man, do we three ever need that.

Respect….I want to be remembered like that, after I’m having fun in heaven.  Guess I’d better get busy working on my attitude & my smile.

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