We lost a friend…

Sue, Pippy & Chip

Writing and dreaming of our upcoming world wide travels seems trivial and self serving at the moment.  Today is a day to write about our friend Chip who embarked on his own journey last night at 8:45 PM.

With his devoted wife Sue at his side day after day, he struggled to maintain a grasp on this precious life he so treasured, one filled with love, family, friends, creative endeavors and a purposeful lifelong career as an orthopedic surgeon. We surely will miss him.  

Rather than turn this tribute into a mournful array of the overused words, we often hear at the passing of a special person, it feels right to tell the story of the life altering influence this man and his lovely wife have had in our lives for the past 26 years.  

They happened to be neighbors, four doors away, on the peninsula.  Yes, I will admit that we became friends due to the close proximity. But, we stayed friends due to the love, the laughter, the lively banter, the shared view of the world, the common sorrows we freely discussed, the fine glass of red wine and the plate of enticing foods, lovingly prepared with each other in mind. Oh, yes, we surely will miss him.

Chip loved people.  Chip loved dogs.  Many years ago, we had the privilege of sharing our lives with a quirky little Australian Terrier, Bart, who lived a short five years of life, run over my our mailman in front of our home.  

During those five happy years, Chip & Sue shared their home with their adorable Australian Shepherd, Pippy.  Bart and Pippy were best friends, as if they knew were both Australian, occasionally hanging out with their friend Peabody, a delightful dog of uncertain descent who lived further down the road. 

Living on a private road with little regard for any leash laws, the three of them roamed freely on the point frequently stopping by neighbor’s homes for a treat which invariable resulting in many chuckles.  They were cartoon characters. 

At times, we walked into Chip and Sue’s home to find our Bart sleeping on their sofa cuddled up next to Pippy. When Bart died in 1996, Chip cried with us, reminiscing with tear filled eyes, and again many times over the years.  

We’d visit the spot in our yard where we lay him to rest, telling funny stories: One warm summer day, when independent Bart was but a year old, we saw a canoe pass by as we lounged in our lawn chairs near the water, on a perfect sunny day.

We didn’t recognize the people in the canoe but, we realized that the dog inside the canoe standing on his hind legs looking over the edge at us was our Bart!  It was if he was saying, “Hey, Mom & Dad, look at me!” He was in a canoe with Sherry, Chip and Sue’s adult daughter, whom we barely knew at the time.  We howled then and many more times over the years.

Chip, a talented sculptor, created one of his first projects of a man sitting with two dogs at his side, Bart and Pippy.  And then, we cried some more.  Yes, we surely will miss him.  

When Pippy’s life was to end, Tom drove Pippy and Chip to the vet while Tom took Pippy inside for his final journey.  Chip stayed outside.  It was too painful to let go.  We all cried some more.

And there was the laughter and the happy hour boat rides with the bouncing appetizers and cocktails, the fun dinner parties back and forth, summer after summer, year after year. Then there were the birthdays that Tom, Chip and Doug (the neighbor and friend in between our houses), all shared on December 23 that we often spent together.  

Sue and I often struggled to decide on what special event to plan for the birthdays, so painfully close to an already packed Christmas season.  One year, I made a cake with one half chocolate, one half white, decorated with each of their names and own decor on their own side.  We laughed, had more cocktails and ate cake.

Chip and Sue were the epitome of a happily retired couple.  In later years, living half the year in Florida and the other half here at the point we stayed in touch counting the days until they returned in late spring to a fun filled summer on the peninsula.

Several years ago, Tom and I came to realize that we wanted to be just like them when we retire, our role models; in love, doing that which we love to do and most of all, spending valuable time together.  Their relationship represented a life of retirement that we all aspire to; having traveled, spending time together and with those they loved and, never failing to admire and respect one another.

Grief, an unwelcome visitor, appears at our door. We let it in, knowing that it brings not only sorrow and sadness, but a wealth of happy memories to soften the blow and to see us through to the other side, which ultimately is gratitude.

Gratitude, for feeling so deeply for him. Gratitude, for the experience of knowing him.  Gratitude for the lessons we’ve learned from him.  Gratitude, for the example he set, the love he freely gave and the legacy he leaves behind.  Yes, we will surely miss him. 

Goodbye, dear Chip. Whenever we go, however long we are gone, you will be in our hearts.