Column: Three people have died; three stars in the sky are shining brighter

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2003

By Al Batt, Tribune columnist

“Death comes in threes.”

I have heard that rather strange observation all of my life.

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It was the voice of a belief that if one person dies in a small town, three will die.

This saying has been passed on from generation to generation.

I heard it then; I hear it now.

I guess this statement is true enough if we wait long enough.

Sooner or later, three people are going to die.

I have never figured out what boundaries of time or geography are applied to his rule.

People die. We are told that people die in threes. We lose good folks and then just as we have done for generations, we gather close.

We share the pain while celebrating the life of the deceased.

We realize that each person who comes into our lives is a miracle.

We share a collective memory. We care deeply and we grieve deeply. We are bound by a shared emptiness.

Three people have died.

All three were what would be considered local folks. Three people known well to my family.

They left us in a moment, but we have known them for years.

Yes, we know the departed.

We know their family members-both the living and the dead.

We cry.

We laugh to keep from crying more.

We know what to do.

We are fish that have swum in these waters before.

My favorite song is “What a Wonderful World” by Louie Armstrong.

I listen to it often during times of stress. I listen to it after a messenger brings the news of a death of a friend or loved one. The song brings hope.

It brings strength.

It brings tears.

A fellow by name of Pericles once said, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Pericles must have lived in a small town.

It is difficult to live in a small town for very long without having your life entwined with the lives of others.

The life of a man or a woman impacts others and so does the death of that individual.

We circle the wagons and find strength in the faces of the familiar.

In an effort to sort things out, we look to the sky as though there might be an answer there.

We see a thousand tiny stars blinking above us.

We cannot be sure, but it appears that three of them are shining brighter than the others.

We wonder why we need to suffer a loss, but we don’t question God’s wisdom.

That’s not our style.

We know there is a purpose to all things.

There is an old joke that tells of the widow, Betty.

She was telling her friend of the death of her longtime husband, Fred.

“He went out to the garden.

Fred liked his garden.

He bent over to cut some lettuce and pull some carrots for dinner when he dropped dead right on the spot from a heart attack.”

“What did you do?” asked her friend.

“Oh, I had some frozen peas instead.”

We each deal with grief in our own way.

We hug one another.

We don’t want to let go for fear of losing someone else.

We say the things we feel.

The words fall short.

They are never enough.

There never seems to be the right words to express what we feel.

I listen to a beautiful voice at a funeral sing about coming to the garden alone.

The song never fails to bring a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.

I have listened to that same song at so many funerals.

Faith, friends and a favorite hymn help us get through this.

Dorothy was right; there is no place like home &045; home and the friends who were made there.

Her friend, the Wizard of Oz said, “A heart is not judged by how much it loves, but how much it is loved by others.” We draw together to demonstrate love.

We make it through until tomorrow because we have good friends today.

The memories of the dearly departed are indeed the wind beneath our wings.

We gain strength from their goodness.

We stand tall on the shoulders of those who go on before us.

We remember the beautiful moments.

We mourn soulfully over our losses.

We absorb the pain.

Three people have died.

There is a sadness that we think will never leave.

Then we see a baby’s smile.

(Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays in the Albert Lea Tribune.)