loss

Richard R. Berner, In Memoriam

berner

My old friend Dick Berner passed away recently, at the age of 89. Although afflicted with chronic and serious conditions, he was making plans to get out of bed and start taking care of business again, all the way to the end. When not totally lucid from the effects of pain medication, he spoke about working on imaginary deals.

Dick was an early mentor. He hired me to come to Louisville when I was just 22 and living near where I grew up in the middle of Omaha. He taught me more about working with people in a few days than I had learned in 18 months as a life insurance agent.

He would have been about 48 when we met, and was operating an insurance agency, a savings company, a bulk oil distributor, an auto parts store, and a fledgling new vehicle dealership. Just a few years prior, he got out of a more established dealership. (It operates on a much larger scale today in the hands of his son-in-law and daughter, forty years later.)

Within a few years of meeting, he started developing acreages and homesites, and got his real estate license. For most of the last thirty years, real estate was his primary business.

Dick was tireless in business, endlessly working on new ideas, always thinking. And he nearly lived out my long-held ambition of working to age 92.

Perhaps because he had always figured things out and was not afraid of new ideas, he challenged me with new things all the time. I got a business education right on Main Street in Louisville that was priceless. It has served me well ever since.

Life is filled with joy and pain. The mortality rate, being 100%, is a source of some of that pain. But the lives we lead tell a story. It fills me with joy that I got to be a small part of Dick’s story, and have him be such an important part of my story.

Rest in peace, old friend.

One of a Kind

cathy

I wasn’t picturing this day back in the 8th grade when, playing the role of Charlie Brown to her as the little red-haired girl, she didn’t know my name. Nor on the first day of freshman year in high school, when the divine miracle of alphabetical order put Cathy Livingston’s locker next to mine. Nor on the 4th of July the following summer, when our long romance began.

Not when we married, and certainly not when the babies came, four in all.
But seven years ago I learned this day was coming–and here we are. Football players strive for ‘yards after contact.’ Cathy battled to get ‘years after diagnosis,’ and she got them. She saw kids get married and she met her grandbabies in those hard-won years.

She’s gone, but not. She lives on in the intelligence of her children, the determination (stubbornness?) of her grandchildren, the formative influence she had on me, our children, the kids she cared for, and in a thousand other ways. This lover, child enthusiast, Disney fan, dolphin watcher, mother, and grandmother endures in our hearts and memories.

At the end of our life together, I am filled with an abundant gratitude, not regrets. Sad, and hopeful. Who wouldn’t be? On a ventilator, unable to speak, nearly paralysed, in her last hours she communicated by writing. One of her messages to me: “You have a lot of wonderful life left.” One chapter ends, another begins.

My work for you is not done. I don’t have the option of curling up into a ball, there is too much to do. I’ll need a little time and space—but I’ll be back. After all, making the most of it is one of the things I learned from Cathy.
Thank you all, again, for everything.