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A life well lived

One of the most unforgettable characters I ever met was John Lawrence Hendrickson.

He died last week at 89, full of decades of curiosity, adventure, accomplishment and joy. Some thought of him as a Renaissance man. He had been everywhere and done everything and, if not, he could probably lecture knowledgeably on the subject for 15 minutes or more. He would characteristically introduce that discourse with “To make a long story short” and then proceed to make the story longer.

What is equally significant about this extraordinary man is that he was to his wife, children, grandchildren and friends a big ole’ lovable and loving teddy bear.

On the morning of his funeral, his sister-in-law, Grace Ellis, composed a poem for John on a yellow legal pad and delivered it at his funeral.

“A Poem for

John Hendrickson”

What do you do when the doctor says,

“You have a fatal disease”?

Do you let sadness drag you down?

No way! You stick to your routine,

maybe buy another classic car,

entertain the liars’ club

with tales of delivering newspapers and drilling through rocks.

And when a different physician

makes another grim announcement,

do you surrender then?

No way! You keep on going to work,

donate a clock to the town,

take the family out to eat at The Bristol.

And when the doctors agree

that you’re nearing the end of the road,

do you hit “pause” to put your affairs in order?

No way! You catch a ride to Chautauqua,

hang out with your high school friends, sleep on the porch.

And when you reach the finish line,

you draw your final breath,

knowing that you’ve squeezed every drop of joy

from the life you were given.