On My Mind: Time for embracing the new

Sometimes the world pulls the rug out from under you, and just when you start to regain your balance the rug gets yanked away again.

It’s been that way for me. Last week I wrote about my sense of loss at the death of Don Koralewski, my former Times colleague who passed in December.

Don’s death was actually the second tug of that rug for me, coming about a month after the death of Pastor Becky Gray. Becky had retired only the year before as pastor of the Pulaski United Methodist Church, where Diane and I are members. Unfortunately we had only begun attending the Pulaski Church less than a year before Becky retired. In that brief time, though, she made a lasting impact on my life.

Ironically Don was 63 – my own age – when he died, and Becky was only three years older. And they both died of cruel cases of cancer.

Although I’m blessed with friends of a wide range in ages and I treasure those relationships, there is no replacing friends your own age, people who grew up and experienced life in the same time frame as you. The shared memories of significant world events, social trends and the process of growing older foster a special sense of togetherness.

Pastor Becky was truly the right person to come into my life at the right time. It had been many years since I had felt at home in a church, or with a minister for that matter. I’m not one for strict dogma or trappings of religion. For me, what is in the heart is what truly matters, and she was of the same mind.

Far too many people I’ve seen are great at talking the talk when it comes to their faith, but in my mind they miss the mark in applying it in their lives. In its deepest sense the message of scripture is love. Perhaps my favorite Biblical passage states that God is love, and far too many people don’t seem to exhibit that in their lives.

I found Pastor Becky’s approach to religion was very open and pragmatic. Her sermons most often touched on practical advice on dealing with life. She was someone I could talk with about spirituality at its deepest levels, and she could challenge me and open my mind to new possibilities. For that I will ever be thankful.

When I learned last fall that Pastor Becky’s cancer has returned and that it was terminal I felt a part of myself slipping away. The pandemic was a curse as our last conversations took place by telephone, not in person. She would rather be taken by the cancer, she told me, than by COVID.

Now I must appreciate that a true blessing in life is the procession of new people you encounter, people who become new friends and colleagues and bring their own personalities to the table.

Although I miss my talks with Don Koralewski, I still have a meaningful relationship with a journalist my age in current Times editor Ron Osburn. Ron is an experienced, dedicated journalist with a deep understanding of his role. One of the highlights of my career was working with Ron when he became editor of The Leader-Enterprise, while I was managing editor of that paper.

Since my retirement from the Times Ron and I have talked often over lunch or coffee, especially since he became Times editor. Although I don’t miss the stress and long hours of being a newspaper editor I do miss journalism, and conversations with Ron help fill that void.

At the Pulaski church we now have two new young pastors, Rachel Widdowson and Nico Kinner. It is true they will never replace Pastor Becky’s role in my life, as they are still on the lower slopes of the hill of life, unlike me. But their youth, their excitement and their exploration of the world brings a new and refreshing perspective to my spiritual life. For that I thank them.

So I will move ahead. I will remember the old friends, and I will heal. And most importantly I will embrace the new people who join me in what lies ahead in this journey of life.

Don Allison is an author, historian and retired editor of The Bryan Times. He can be reached at www.fadedbanner.com.

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