Walt came into our lives when we lived in Los Angeles, California. He worked at the same company as my father who was a mentor to the young, up-and-coming new employee at Manufacturers’ Life Insurance Company. When my family moved from LA to Honolulu, Hawaii, Walt kept in touch with us, oftentimes flying through Honolulu on his way to Maui where he vacationed from time to time.
We hadn’t seen Walt in a while, so when my mother died in September of 1994, imagine my delighted surprise when I entered the church for my mother’s funeral service and there stood Walt near the altar, a friend who had flown to Honolulu from Toronto, Canada where he had relocated years prior to work in the head office of my father’s company.
At forty years of age, I ran up the aisle of the church and threw my arms around him, so thrilled to see our family friend and so blessed that he traveled all the way from eastern Canada to honor my mother and our family by his attendance at my mother’s service.
Fast-forward twenty-four years to Monday of this week when eighty-three-year old Walt D. called me from Toronto to congratulate me on my novel, Requiem for the status quo. He had just finished reading it and couldn’t wait to talk to me about my accomplishment. “Irene, there is no reason why your novel shouldn’t be on the New York Times Best Seller List!” I thanked him for his very generous review and we then talked about the book’s subject matter (Alzheimer’s disease and its effect on families) and how he, in his golden years, had witnessed dementia’s hold on many of his friends. Since Walt and I communicate by postal mail several times a year (he does not own or use a computer), I was well-aware of his involvement with the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada where he volunteers and participates in their equivalent of the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Walt visited my father after my Dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, even while my father was in the middle of his Alzheimer’s journey. Walt made a point of keeping in touch with Dad, knowing the window of opportunity would come to a close in time.
I spent nearly a half hour on the phone with Walt this past Monday, feeling so close to this man who had entered our lives way back in the early 1960s, and who had remained a part of our family for almost sixty years. Friendships don’t have to end because of distance and time; when you stoke the flames they can survive and be contributory to one’s quality of life, as Walt’s has been to mine.
Kindness doesn’t recognize the barriers of distance, time, and even age.
Kindness can live on if we make the effort to nourish it.