Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Why Wait?

Every day, someone makes a difference in someone else's life. We may know a person for ages as a friend or even an acquaintance, like them, appreciate their talent, and maybe even say "Good job!" or "I liked that!" But then something happens -- to them or to us -- that changes the picture to something more revealing, more profound. Maybe we are able to tell them how they have affected our perspectives or how we value their contributions to our lives. Or, maybe we think there will be time to say so later. Sometimes there is and sometimes, regrettably, there isn't.

Catfish by Dick Hill

And that's why I need to tell you now about Dick Hill. Because I want him to know how I feel -- and I want you to know about him. You need to know about him. We all do. He may not have a lot of time left to hear these words, so it's important to do it now. And while he's here on this earth, he still has a lot to say. It's funny, witty and very wise and I need to share some of that with you..

You may already "know" Dick Hill -- or at least know his voice. He is the audio book narrator of over 1,000 books, including the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, along with those of Henning Mankel, Michael Connelly, and Dave Berry. No person could be better suited to narration because before he was a book narrator, he was an actor and he brings that skill to his audio work.

Dick Hill (Dickhill.com)

I had seen Dick on stage long before I actually met him, as a frequent leading man in local theatre productions. When WKAR did a series of "Pledge Free August" videos, Dick and his wife, Susie Breck, were the on-air talent, recording what I remember as being (and possibly am overestimating) dozens of video spots at a variety of locations. 

Susie Breck and Dick Hill during the WKAR Pledge Free August shoot.

I was on a lot of those shoots and they were both delights to work with.

Susie Breck and Dick Hill recording Pledge Free August videos for public television

A few years later, Dick cast me in a female version of "The Odd Couple" that he was directing as a fund raiser for the Red Cross, so we had the opportunity to work together in a different way. 

I describe this to explain that I knew Dick for years but I wasn't an "intimate," an "everyday friend." We did the campaign and one show, but by then our circles moved a bit differently. Then Facebook came along and, as one so often finds, we were in touch again. I learned that in 2018, he retired from audio recording and decided to paint.

And paint he did! 

Ready to Go by Dick Hill

Dick Hill has been a powerful influence on my life in recent months. And why? No, not because of the painting, although his style is a glorious wash of color and joy and it inspires me to be more free in my own work. Some of his paintings are complex, some primitive, some portrait-oriented; some are landscapes and some just emerge from his wonderfully imaginative mind. 

Willem's Backlot by Dick Hill

Watching him evolve over the past few years has been a joy. He wrote:

Surveying my paintings, many inspired by William Johnson, Matisse, Van Gogh, Basquiat and others. They say many artists stand on the shoulders of giants. I step on their toes."

Susie, who is a gift of love and kindness in itself, has turned their home into a joyful art gallery, filled with the color Dick spreads on canvas.

The colorful home of Dick Hill and Susie Breck (Photo by Jeff Boerger)

Or, as Dick would say, "Susie, she's a doozie."

But that's not the reason I want to say this now. Dick Hill is dying. It's no secret. He's unbelievably open about it on his Facebook page, sharing this journey to his next destination and his joy in sucking out the last best and most colorful bits of life before he leaves. 

The bathroom of Dick Hill and Susie Breck (Photo by Jeff Boerger)

And in those posts he has shown me something only one other person in my life has shown me before. That was my mom. She taught me -- and Dick has more than reinforced -- a philosophy I hope to be able to continue when the chips are really down.

That philosophy? How to really live while dying -- which is ever so much more fun and enriching than dying while living.

Voyeur's Perch by Dick Hill

Throughout his cancer treatment, which he has since stopped and is now a Hospice client, Dick has been able to be honest but upbeat. Beyond upbeat. His posts are filled with fun poems he has written and the thoughts of a man who is seeing and savoring this beautiful world around him. 

Carmen's Visitor by Dick Hill

The other day he wrote this:

I guess you could say I'm sad that my life is ending, or so it's rumored. I know Susie is sad that's the case.

However it makes much more sense to laugh and enjoy life up until the very last moment before we indulge ourselves in that sadness.

Right now I'm rediscovering the delicious joy of drinking water. Not coffee, not wine, not juice. Water.

 And then there was this:

I love Life, I live Love. Try to anyway. But I also love the thought of passing to another level of awareness and being, where I reunite with the ONE, the ALL, and find perfect fulfillment with that union. That's how I think and feel it works. If not.... um...oops. Try again Dick.

Dick Hill (photo by Jeff Boerger)

And consider the joys of having a favorite pie for the last time. 

Lovely warm day, relaxing hospice massage, did some painting...for dinner tuna pasta salad, my warm weather favorite. For dessert? RHUBARB CREAM PIE!!!! My favorite of all pies. Susie makes terrific pies. Susie, of course, is entitled to have some but NO ONE ELSE! This will be my last rhubarb cream pie, and I am gonna' enjoy it as long as it lasts. Me. Mine. My pie. Mine! With a nice, rich vanilla ice cream.

 

One of the Ethel and Sissy series by Dick Hill

There are words of gratitude and words of compassion and wisdom...

Extraordinary outpouring of love and support coming my way since I shared the news of entering hospice and embarking on a sort of cruise toward death, for which I thank you all. So far it's been smooth sailing...appetite loss, lassitude, and what may be slightly slower uptake and comprehension but nothing terribly upsetting or debilitating.

By the way, that person next to you in the grocery line? They're dying too. Date of demise uncertain, but it's comin'. It'd be great to show them the same love tolerance and appreciation for their existence, even if they barged ahead of you to bring 17 items to the 10 or fewer item lane.

If they bring 18 though, that just might prove a bridge too far.

Or this...

Give someone a nicer day.

Give yourself a nicer day.

Smile and wave and let them merge.

That's all it takes.

You'll have made the world a better place, and I'm pretty sure a butterfly in Macao dances on a baby's nose because of you.

As you no doubt know, not every day in one's end-of-life journey is easy. I'm pretty sure there are days when Dick is not up to painting, though God knows he'll try -- and feel better for it. Or, as he wrote: 

Sometimes there are no easy answers. And sometimes there are not even any hard ones.

He might re-write Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics to "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," then sing it, his bass voice at long last restored after stopping the chemotherapy. He may pen a limerick or a poem or cook a meal like this one.

Made a rather demanding brunch...I'm a decent cook but juggling so many elements was hard for me, and would have been impossible were I working against a chef's timeline. Poached salmon, lemon, dill, salt and pepper topped with a pineapple, watermelon salsa....dandelion and carrot greens sauteed with onion and garlic, topped with sliced almonds and shaved parm...lovely soft scramble with chopped kalamata olives, capers, green onion, tomato, pine nuts, feta and parsley...mini croissants (store bought).

Beet Red Walls and Split Pea Soup by Dick Hill

I've always believed dying is scary and no one is a fan of the pain that often comes with it. I still do and I don't relish having that experience any sooner than necessary. But in being "out there" with his illness and the inevitable transition, Dick Hill reminds us all of savoring the joy, the raw, wonderful being of life. And that's something we must never forget.

The Painter in his Underwear by Dick Hill. "Don't often look at my full body in the mirror," he writes. "My goodness gracious. I am indeed 75 years old. If I were a Dickens character, I'd be named Mr. Sagwrinkle."

And these words of wisdom from yet another of Dick's FB posts? They are wonderful words to live by and I'm doing my best to do just that:

Today is here with all its ugly. See it. Stand against it.

Today is here with all its beauty...like the billions of scintillating sparkles after that perfect type of snowfall, you know the kind, every sparkle a person to be embraced, a pet, a flower, a taste, a color. See it, rejoice a million times.

Today is here. Time to clean my brushes and see what I might accomplish.

Today is here.

Dick Hill in his studio (photo by Jeff Boerger)

And so, what is to be my mission, my experience from these lessons I have so greedily absorbed in these months of reading his words? I will write and I will paint. I suspect when I pick up a tube of paint and squeeze it into my palette, I will be thinking of someone who took the color and made it sing.

I will sit on my beach this summer and read books, feeling the sand in my toes. And when I swim, the water will first chill and then envelop me in its cocoon. I'll float on my back and look at the clouds, searching for bunnies and kittens and Yeti in those thick, white puffs. I'll take walks and celebrate the summer's wildflowers, the changing leaves in the fall and next winter's snowflakes. And I won't be alone.

Two Loons by Dick Hill

I will be one of the many whom I suspect will be Dick's eyes when they are no longer here to see those bursts of color and that cloud of white.  Maybe I'll even sing a song or two, despite having lost so much of my voice in recent years. Or maybe that's a step too far.

Ethel and Sissy Loved Story Time with Ms. Angela by Dick Hill

And I will do all I can to absorb the lessons I continue to learn from Dick every day in grace. I hope there are a lot more days of those lessons and the smiles so many of find on our faces as we read those posts.  

Sissy Wants to Play by Dick Hill

Among our many blessings, one of the greatest is being in a position to extend some help to friends and loved ones when it's needed, and to other sisters and brothers we've never met.

(For more about Dick Hill, you can check out his FB posts, which may or may not be public. An interview in Mystery Thriller Week is here; and you can listen to excerpts from his audio books here. Thanks to photographer Jeff Boerger for letting me use some of the photos he took of Dick and his home.

Sharing with:   Share Your Style    /   Rain's Art Date   /   Love Your Creativity      /    Pink Saturday   

68 comments:

Jenn Jilks said...

What a poignant and fitting tribute. This is a celebration of life, a life well-lived.
My husband has cancer, and we enjoy each day. We hold our breath each quarter when he has another test, but so far the mitigation is working.

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

What a great post, Jeanie, about a wonderfully inspiring friend and fellow artist. He is picking his way to die until he literally dies and that's got to make it easier for all his friends and admirers. For you. Love his colorful art and those purple and yellow walls of his house. Takes guts to be that bold.

Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

What an extraordinary post, so full of admiration, and a beautiful tribute for this man who has been in your life for years. It is clear he has a wonderful attitude to life, living each day to the fullest. I hope you have many times of joy with him in the coming weeks.

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Beautiful tribute, thoughtful from the heart. Much to think about
Prayers

Anvilcloud said...

What a post! I hope he reads it. Living while dying is a wonderful concept. I want to go out with grace and dignity, among other things, I guess.

Regina said...

A beautiful post Jeanie for a wonderful man. I've never heard of him or his voice. I'm so sorry to hear about his health and I pray for him and his loved ones as he makes his way Home.

gigi-hawaii said...

I like his idea of death being the rising to a higher plane of awareness. Death should not be feared. He has lived with grace and dignity, and he is exiting the world with grace and dignity. God bless him.

DVArtist said...

This is a tribute from your heart. I can see how much this man and his family mean to you.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Dick has given us all a lot to think about. Live and appreciate each and every day. Thank you Jeanie for sharing.

bobbie said...

Why wait indeed! A beautiful tribute ~

Valerie-Jael said...

A wonderful tribute to Dick Hill and his sunny art. Hugs, Valerie

eileeninmd said...

Hello Jeanie,
What a lovely tribute to Dick Hill. I enjoyed seeing his art work. Today is here, wonderful words to live by. Thanks for sharing!

anno said...

This is beautiful, Jeanie... filled with gratitude and deep wisdom. Sending love and peace to you and to Dick and his family.

Mary Rose's said...

Ah, well done! Your words and choices of images created for us the Dick Hill you know and love, and he is quite a remarkable spirit. May his time remaining be full of colors and flavors, with the people he loves around him. (Wouldn't that be what we'd wish for ourselves?)

Love you! XOXOXO

Andrea @ From The Sol said...

Would that we all were blessed with a "Dick Hill" in our lives. In fact if only there were more of him and what a shame that he is leaving ... but he is leaving only in body, as clearly his essence will still be with you and all that knew him. Perhaps his goodness will help some turn the page in their life, of even see the joy that has always been but sadly going unnoticed. And it has to be said that it is a two way street ... I know that Dick is knowing and feeling the love that comes to him from all of those he has affected, including you, Jeanie. It is a blessing for a blessing and is the way life aught to be lived by everyone ... sad that it isn't, but that doesn't mean all of us can't try to be a Dick Hill in our own lives ... the rewards are many and they go in both directions. This was a lovely post, Jeanie. I sincerely hope that Dick has the opportunity to read it as you have given him on of those nicer days.

Andrea @ From the Sol

William Kendall said...

A great tribute. It sounds like he has made peace.

Painting the hamptons said...

Thank you Jeanie, this is exactly what I needed to read today. What a lovely man. xoxox

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

This was indeed uplifting to read, especially today, Jeanie. I was unfamiliar with Dick Hill and his talents before reading and re-reading this post which is full of your admiration for a remarkable person. His ability to see the world in such colorful tones and verses is outstanding. Unfortunately, I could not read more on FB as I am not on that social platform. Thank you for sharing Dick’s talents.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

What an inspiring post. It sounds like he is really living life to the fullest in his final days, looking for humor, and sharing love. I think it's easy to forget that life is such a gift - we often need reminders like this. It sounds like he is hopefully comfortable in hospice so the end days are not horrible for him. My heart goes out to those who are in terrible pain at the end of their life. And my heart goes out to his wife - it sounds like they have a wonderful marriage and I think it's often harder to be the person left behind...

But oof, I think your post says he is 75. That is so young. My idea of "young" has really changed as my parents have gotten older. They still seem pretty "young" to me at 74!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

I really hope he reads this, Jeanie. We all have a berth to sail on the ship that takes us out of here, and this would be a good way to tack into the wind and be on his way.

DeniseinVA said...

Oh my goodness, I feel so blessed you shared this post and I read it today. Dick is one of a kind, although I expect he would deny that. I think he is one of a kind anyhow. I wish him God Speed on his next journey. I am truly happy I know his story. Thank you Jeanie :)

Laurie said...

Such a beautiful post, such an inspiration, oh to have such grace in the final days of our lives, really amazing, thank you for sharing this today! Take care,

Betty said...

This is such a beautiful post, full of pauses for thought that I will now carry with me, thank you. I hope that Dick is given access to all the things he cherishes and savours so that his remaining time on this planet can be enjoyed to the full.

Iris Flavia said...

Wow, I had to read the sentence three times, Jeanie.
"How to really live while dying -- which is ever so much more fun and enriching than dying while living."
Poor Susie, I sure have an idea how she is feeling.
The 18 item-story sure made me giggle.
Humble words, and your writing is alike, "feeling the sand in my toes", do, we all should, maybe I find a stretch at river Oker.
His FB is public, and I expected nothing else.
I´ll check the other links, too.
You made me feel very ...thankful, small and... thankful, a great post, thank you, Jeanie.

Rita said...

He sounds like my kind of human being, for sure. Wonderful, wonderful post.
Plenty of time to be sad later. Live and laugh now. I love his vibrant paintings, too. Thanks for sharing him, Jeanie! :)

Lynne said...

Beautiful, inspiring . . .
Thank you Jeanie.
***
“I love Life, I live Love.
Try to anyway.
But I also love the thought of passing to another level of awareness
and being, where I reunite with the ONE, the ALL,
and find perfect fulfillment with that union.
That's how I think and feel it works.
If not.... um...oops.
Try again Dick.”
Dick Hill

It's me said...

Beautiful heartwarming post so sad of your friend…but what a beautiful special soul he is …have a nice day love from me Ria ๐Ÿ™

acorn hollow said...

If we could all be just half as gracious while living, we could change the world.
Cathy

My name is Erika. said...

Although the story is sad, there was something uplifting about this post. Perhaps it is the art. It is inspirational. It says painting is pure joy! And life is pure joy! Thanks for the reminder to live each day to the fullest. I'm also sorry to hear that Dick Hill is in hospice however, so I don't want to make total light of this post. hugs-Erika

Joanne Huffman said...

What a beautiful piece of writing about someone who is obviously an incredible man! I will try to incorporate his attitude (beautifully written) into my behavior.

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

What an extraordinary man, with an amazing attitude. I found myself quite emotional reading this post, and I'd like to remember some of Dick's words. "Today is her with all its ugly...Today is here with all its beauty..."
Thank you, Jeanie, for sharing this. I needed it today.

La Table De Nana said...

I can tell from every word you have written the impact this gentleman has had on you.I find not enough people realize our time is limited here.Be kind be nice make someone feel good.The more you do for others in small ways the happier one becomes.Giving is the trick ..not receiving.Wise words he speaks and writes.
Thank you for sharing his words..I would not have read them otherwise.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

What a loving and emotionally moving tribute. I think it's even better when you honor the person before they die, because your thoughts get lost on (and to) the honoree once they have died.

Red Rose Alley said...

Your friend sounds so special, Jeanie, and you're right, why wait to express what he means to you and share his wonderful words. I like what he said about the person next to you in the grocery line. His words about the pie made me smile too. Rhubarb cream pie sounds Yummy. I've always thought that a piece of pie is like a work of art to savor every last bite. I loved what he said about helping friends and loved ones. If only more people realized that. You have a very special friend, Jeanie

~Sheri.

DUTA said...

He mentions reuniting with 'the One', 'the All' - does he mean God?
Unlike other commenters, I don't believe there's grace and dignity in dying. There's only big sadness marking the end of a life, just as at birth, there's big joy at the beginning of a life.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jeanie๐Ÿ’• I am taking this all in. I hope, when it's my time, I will face it as your friend is doing. What a wonderful, remarkable lesson. To try to touch our joy for life, even as we leave it. I no longer have a fear of death or dying (I think), as I have faced it in helping a few family members find their way at the end of their lives. On days when I'm down, I remind myself to look up and marvel at the miracle of sky, sun, wind, flowers, trees, and all. Your beautiful tribute reminds me of that. I wish your friend a beautiful passing, knowing he is surrounded by love. Thank you again, Jeanie. Though we have not seen each other in over 45 years (๐Ÿ˜ณ), I feel I still know and love your essence, and I still treasure you. ๐Ÿ’•

Pat said...

Wonderful thoughts and uplifting sadness in this writing. Dick Hill a very interesting person. His way of dealing with death approaching him was so inspiring. I loved listening to his readings over the years, his voice was mesmerizing. His joy of painting is comforting in his finial days.
Jeanie you writings are thoughtful and beautiful. I feel your sadness and wish I could be closer to you. Am sending love and hugs.
Hope you are feeling better๐Ÿฅฐ. Take care of you❤️๐ŸŒท๐ŸŒท๐Ÿ’❤️

Sandra Cox said...

Oh my gosh, Jeanie. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, this is so poignant and beautifully written. It is so very hard to lose a friend. Thank you for sharing Dick Hill with us.

Jane Zussman said...

I love this gathering of the bouquet of Dick's Facebook Farewell...

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

And now, thanks to you, Jeanie, I have gotten to experience the wonder that is this man. Wow. Excellent.

Sandra Cox said...

I love his catfish:)

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

wow - your post has sort of annihilated my thoughts. Your friend is a gift in your life that you can treasure.

Prims By The Water said...

Although I did not know about Dick, what a poignant post. His words and paintings are inspiring. Janice

Cindy said...

What a beautiful tribute. He sounds like a remarkable man.

Christine said...

Lovely tribute

Anonymous said...

No one could have done this better. Your words add to Dick ‘s story by spreading it to those who may need it. Beautiful.

Miss Val's Creations said...

A beautiful tribute to your inspiring friend. It is wonderful how Dick is putting his feelings out there in order to help others as well as himself. Reading the post definitely brought a tear to my eyes and reminds me to live everyday to the fullest. His artwork is wonderful and diverse, sure to live on.

Divers and Sundry said...

What a beautiful tribute to a life well lived!

Nancy said...

What a beautiful tribute to a friend who gives so many inspiration. What an amazing man!

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

Jeanie, you haver written a beautiful tribute to an amazing man. I can read how much he has affected your life. Life is precious. I love his positive attitude. Many blessings to Dick Hill.

Bohemian said...

This is a lovely poignant Tribute to your Friend and I do feel as tho' I got a great introduction to a person who will surely be missed and will leave an incredible void. The Art will live on, the Writings and Memories too... Energy never truly Dies, it just changes Form. I like to think Beautiful Spirits such as his will still have impacts from beyond the Veil.

Sami said...

Jeanie, what a beautiful tribute to your friend Dick. He sounds like a very special person and I admire his positive attitude and colourful well lived life.

Lowcarb team member said...

A wonderful tribute, beautifully written.
Blessings.

All the best Jan

Steve Reed said...

Such beautiful, vibrant paintings! I'm sure he would love what you've written here; I hope he sees it! It's admirable that he's being so open about his experiences. I think demystifying death is one of the most significant things a dying person can do for the living.

Anca said...

A wonderful tribute. Sending you virtual hugs. xx

Marie Rayner said...

A beautiful tribute to your friend Jeannie who sounds like an amazing person. Would that we could all be so positive about such a transition in life. There is a lesson to be learned in all of this and I thank you for sharing. His work and his words are very inspiring. Thank you! xoxo

Rita C at Panoply said...

Sometimes it takes me a while to respond to your posts, and that's because I want to spend time reading through, and reflect. This is such a poignant post of your reflections on Dick and his attitude toward transitioning, and his body of life's achievements. It really moved me, Jeanie. As I approach my 65th, it could be said I will officially be old, but I choose to be way more positive than that, in that I have a lot of life still to live, and to live with the freedom of no real restrictions that my former self was tied to. Why wait? I agree!

Rain said...

Hi Jeanie! Thank you so much for sharing Dick and Susie's story with us. He is a beautiful artist. How to live while dying...very thought-provoking for sure.

Jenny Woolf said...

A wonderful and extraordinary man. I love his words and I love his pictures. I'd love to meet him in person too. And you are quite right to do this post while he is still here, because he will know that his words and images have reached us.

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

Jeanie, what a beautiful tribute to your friend. So lovely are your thoughts as well as his. They gave me happy tears and I will keep them with me always.
Thank you for this most special post.

Marilyn Miller said...

What a lovely post about Dick. I love reading about his attitude on dying. His artwork is so joyful. How special that his wife honors him by hanging it throughout his home and surrounding him with love. He sounds like a very special man and his spirit will continue on in your memory.

Fundy Blue said...

Oh my goodness, Jeanie! This may be the most beautiful, poignant, and powerful blog post I've ever seen ~ and I've seen 1000s! I literally have shivers, tears, and joy! What an amazing human being Dick Hill is! I'm bookmarking this post, so that if I'm feeling down, I can give myself a quick kick in the butt and shape up. When I saw the catfish, I burst out laughing and then your post took an unexpected turn. Thank you for sharing this!!!

Victoria Zigler said...

What a beautiful post.

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Dear Jeanie,
Trying to catch up.
He sounds like a wonderful man, and this is a beautiful tribute.
Thank you for sharing
blessings,
Penny

Kristie from Love My Little Cottage said...

Reading about Dick was nice. I hope his last days are filled with joy and not with pain.

Barb said...

A person who lived his life fully and is still fully living until his last breath - thank you for this introduction to Dick Hill. To just keep doing what is possible until that is impossible seems to me to be the best ending to any life. We all share 2 things - birth and death. We have no control over the beginning, but we can possibly influence our experience of the end.

Jeanie said...

Comments transferred over from my FB page.

Patrice Klein
Beautiful and inspiring words - both his and yours.

Patrice Klein
Beautiful sentiments - both his and yours.

Mary C. Mertz-Smith
He truly is an inspiration and you’ve captured his spirit well in this piece.

Jane Linn
Beautiful thoughts, words, and images to absorb and apply. Thank you, Jeanie and Dick.

Lynne Gordon
Beautiful, inspiring . . .
Thank you Jeanie.
***… See more

Nancy Kelly
Thanks for sharing this, Jeanie. Wow. ❤

Dick Hill
Damn Jeanie...what a piece! I know where to find this guy, and damned if I'm not gonna' get his autograph...

Bernadette Quigley
Gorgeous article about my beloved friend Dick Hill. Thank you for writing & posting it, Jeanie.

Bonnie Bletcher Krauss
What a lovely tribute! And what an admirable man! Lots of food for thought. And I love his catfish painting.

Claudia Ottinger
Wow, beautiful tribute to someone who has a beautiful outlook on life! Thank you for sharing.

Jane Falion
Awesome Jeanie.

Diana Lett
So beautifully encapsulated.

Laura Stebbins
Yes, awesome, Jeanie! You have captured his spirit well as Mary said!

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