Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Three Deaths

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on August 8th, 2009

Sometimes death can teach you a lot about life. At least, that’s what it has done for me this week.

I was touched by three deaths that occurred within the last month. The three people who died were different ages and personalities, and to the best of my knowledge never met each other. And truth be told, I didn’t know any of them all that well. Yet I found myself thinking about them, and learning lessons from each.

Ted Tausek died July 25th in Brewster at the age of 99. For the last 12 years of his life he lived in an assisted living facility on the Cape, and spent much time entertaining people with his musical abilities.

In the 1960’s he was a teacher at the LG Nourse school in Norton, and I was a student in the 6th grade. Mr. Tausek was my social studies teacher, and the first to install in me a love of current events and government. He was loud, he was opinionated, and he was enthusiastic. He definitely made an impression.

So much so that when I got married nine years later, the Ted Tausek Trio played at our wedding. We didn’t really pick him (he came with the country club) but it was a kick to have him there. I hadn’t seen him since that day 32 years ago, but his passing made me sadder than I expected.

Robert Legg of Norton died July 31st at the age of 76. I only met him a handful of times, but I was struck by his desire to help others and his willingness to put himself out there. A disabled veteran, Mr. Legg was a person who didn’t make excuses – he just worked hard to get what he wanted or needed.

I moderated a selectmen’s debate a few years ago when Mr. Legg threw his hat into the political ring. I can’t tell you he did well either in the debate or at the ballot box. His answers were rambling and hard to understand, and he finished dead last. But his enthusiasm, his dedication to veterans, and his courage in stepping forward when others would not stuck with me. I liked him, and I was somehow strangely proud of him.

Michael Hoyle of Norton died on July 28th at the far too young age of just 24. His death was a sad and tragic loss – a life ended not by old age or illness, but by demons that beset far too many young people. I know Mikey’s parents, though I didn’t know Mikey himself very well.

As I sat in the pew at his funeral, I looked around at the other attendees. I saw the grieving family members, and many of their friends and neighbors. And I saw many of Mikey’s friends – young people looking confused, upset, sad and hurt.

As I gazed at their faces, I wondered if Mikey might have more effect on some of these kids in death than he did in life. I wondered if the mistakes he may have made might become learning tools for these young men and women. I wondered if somewhere, somehow, a life might be saved because someone would remember Mikey – and that would make a difference.

There is nothing sadder than the death of a child or someone still in their early youth. It is not just the loss of the person we mourn, but the loss of all the potential contained in that person. There truly is no sadder phrase than “what might have been.”

Ted Tausek, Robert Legg and Michael Hoyle should serve as examples to us all. They each did some things well, other things not so well. But each will be remembered, and each will serve to inspire people who knew them.

When I remember Ted Tausek, I will remember a man who made others happy with the gifts he was given. When I remember Robert Legg, I will remember a man who was unafraid to step up when he believed he could make a difference. When I remember Michael Hoyle, I will remember that potential is not just an asset, but also a burden.

And I will remember what I learned from each.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be reached at aninsidelook@aol.com.

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