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Inside looking out: A thanks to heaven’s helpers

During the season of Thanksgiving, I have written annual columns to express my gratitude to those who have played a big part in my life’s fulfillment.

This column, however, is dedicated to the very special people who have helped mold my character before they left this world and went to heaven.

Let me begin with my mom who loved me the best she could when I was little. We lived under never-ending storm clouds of illness and poverty, but Mom, you taught me that no matter what happens or what I can’t control, that’s no excuse to stop loving my family and my friends unconditionally.

My dad suffered with illness, but still tried to work through it all before he died when I was 19. I disliked him when I was a teenager, but now I understand why he couldn’t be a father to me. Dad, you have instilled in me the power of forgiveness and I hope you know now how much I love you.

My sister Nancy lived a hard life except for a few years when she was happily married, and she was funny to be around. I thank you for those few years when I got to know you as the sister I had never known before.

To my sister Carol, who died after eight years of health issues, you showed me your selflessness that I try to live with now. A week before you died you called and asked me how I was doing when we both knew the end was near for you. Thank you for showing me the real meaning of courage.

To Bob Clark, my old friend and colleague, I miss your Academy Award contests and my trips to Hazleton to watch Notre Dame football on your TV. When I was a pallbearer at your funeral, I’ll never forget entering the church and hearing “O Danny Boy,” your favorite song being sung from the loft. Your sister told me that just before you took your last breath, you lifted you head from the pillow, opened your eyes wide and looked to the light in the window. What a beautiful sight that must have been!

Hello, Bob Ford! I still can see you standing with your camera on the football sidelines and at the edge of basketball courts every time I’m assigned to cover a game for the Times News. I can imagine the bird’s-eye photos you must be shooting of sunrises and sunsets from heaven’s windows.

Eddie Eodice, where have you gone? We played sports in the summers and got drunk at too many bachelor parties when we were in our 20s. You were a best buddy in those days and you’d better be holding a baseball bat and get me on your team I when I come to heaven.

Hey Tommy Hicks! I wish I could still see your name on my phone whenever it rings, asking me when we’re going fishing again. This year I caught a bass that nearly weighed 7 pounds. I lifted him up to the sky and said, “How about this Big Bubba, Tommy, boy!” I knew you were there with me that day and shared my joy for catching a trophy fish.

Mr. Brad Dilly - Sadly, I found out about your passing on an online obituary. We had some good times at the Boulder View Inn feeling sorry for ourselves about our failures with relationships of our past, didn’t we? No more pain, from your cancer treatments, my friend. I hope to find you at Heaven’s Hangout Tavern. You’ll have to let me know when it’s happy hour.

Tim Mason, you suddenly left my world this past year. No matter how many miles between us, you were a loyal friend and our fishing trip into the Canadian wilderness will always be one of my favorite times, especially when you fried up those fresh walleyes we caught.

Bill Kovacs, my football defensive coordinator. You were known to our players as the Master of Disaster because hardly anybody ever scored on us. Together with my Strack Attack offense, we lost just six games in five years and went undefeated twice. Off the gridiron, you were the man I looked to for fatherly advice. You were tough on me when I needed it and you loved me when I needed that. Thank you, Mr. Yip Yap. I’ll look forward to coaching God’s All Glory team with you someday and we’ll get those five more wins that you wanted for me to reach 100.

George Sawicki, we fooled them all, didn’t we? They thought we didn’t like each other because we argued about everything from the worst food to the best movies. No, George, “Howard the Duck” was not my favorite film and yes, you can put ketchup on filet mignon! I didn’t just say that, did I? Here’s what our own families and friends didn’t know. We could talk for hours about life and love and share our deepest secrets with each other. We went through a lot together in 40 years. Thanks for being the biggest pain in the butt and the best friend all at the same time!

When our loved ones die, we miss them terribly for a while, but then they live on through memories that continue to bring joy to our hearts. We just think of them and we feel grateful that they’re still helping us get through another day.

Rich Strack can be reached at richiesadie11@gmail.com.