On February 25, I posted a blog and wrote about not putting off doing those things we want to do in this life. I repeated something we all realize and all too often disregard. “We never know when our last day on this earth will come.” A few days later I received notice that a dear friend and valued member of the Oro Valley Writers Forum had died of COVID. Helmut’s death came as a shock to all who knew him. He was a talker and always had something to add to any conversation. He was funny, smart, and sometimes a little over-bearing, but also always a kind and generous man. Helmut was a man of deep faith who was never hesitant to share his belief that there was something greater awaiting us after we leave this life. I hope my dear friend was right.
Helmut published his book Nobody’s Coming under the name of HJ Seifert in 2019 and was rightfully proud of his work. It had been what I think, a long-standing item on his bucket list. Something he’d accomplished with some pride. His plans for a second book were set aside in order to assist his elderly parents and to be a husband, father, and grandfather. I feel confident that he would tell us it was a good use of his life. I’d agree.
We will miss Helmut.
While I already miss my friend, I have also taken comfort in considering those gifts that others bring to us. Another writing friend loaned me a book that has brought great joy. A new friend in my life. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is a force to be reckoned with. 349 pages of beautiful, approachable, honest, and beautiful verse. The reader is taken on a wonderful journey of a young African American girl caught between two lives. One in the deep South, the other Brooklyn, New York. Woodson who was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate has won more literary honors than would fit in a museum.
You could do far worse than spending some time on a warm Spring afternoon getting to know this remarkable woman.
I have a bookmark that contains a simple message – “So many books, so little time.” I am grateful that I have met some of the greatest humans that have ever lived. John Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, Barbara Kingsolver, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mary Oliver, Langston Hughes, and the list could go on forever. What I wouldn’t give to buy them a beer or a cup of tea and try to express my gratitude for the gifts they have given me. I may not have heard their spoken voice, but the voices I have heard in their writing are clear and beautiful.
Many years ago I had an acquaintance who told me something like this, “Reading kills brain cells, so I don’t read.” The man was serious, and I believe faithfully followed his belief. He did offer that there was one exception, he’d occasionally read hunting and fishing magazines. I guess there are some things that are worth losing a few IQ points. I suspect it is with some hyperbole that I say I can’t imagine life without reading. I would manage, I would find other things to fill my time, but my life would be far less enjoyable and far less full.
Writing and reading are for me a great joy. I fumble with words when I write, I hesitate in my effort to put together a sentence, but in the end, I always find fun and reward in those efforts. I firmly believe that everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes that story is told verbally, sometimes it is told in the written word, and sometimes it is kept silent. It is in this silence that the tragedy occurs. I hope everyone finds their story and lets the people of this world share in it. They deserve to hear it, and you deserve to tell it.
Now I’m off to buy another book. I wish my friend Helmut peace and I wish you good reading. Be kind and go well, David.
“Even the silence has a story to tell you. Just listen. Listen.”
“Time comes to us softly, slowly. It sits beside us for a while. Then, long before
we are ready, it moves on.” Jacqueline Woodson.
One thought on “Losing a friend, finding a friend”
Such a nice tribute to Helmut, all of us at Oro Valley Writers Forum will miss him greatly. So glad you are enjoying Jacqueline Woodson’s work. In addition to Brown Girl Dreaming, her children’s picture books were favorite read- aloud books when I was teaching.
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