Many of us were reminded this week how fragile life can be. Life is suspended by a thin cord, easily broken.
Thursday’s edition of this newspaper carried two obituaries, side by side, of two of our neighbors who left us much too soon.
One was a young woman who I’d only met once, but during that meeting she was kind and helpful. Rachel Fillingame past away this week at the age of 21, of a rare autoimmune disease. I met her at my friends’ vehicle repair shop, LeMeilleur’s RV, Truck and Equipment Repair, where she was employed. During that one meeting, she quick to be helpful.
Through Facebook I learned she was ill, and I followed the progress of her disease through my friends’ almost daily posts. The thing that really stood out was her bravery: she was ready to go to the reward she knew awaited her in heaven. Her faith helped her as she approached her final hour here.
The other who left us too soon was a young man I’d known since he was a youngster: James Eastland, who passed away at 34 this week. He leaves behind a loving wife and two beautiful daughters. He, his wife, and several generations of the Eastland family work at Camp Mystic, a summer camp for girls on the south fork of the Guadalupe River, just past Hunt.
James was well known in our community, from his student days here, as an athlete at Tivy, his involvement in community affairs, and his leadership in the camping industry. The news of his sudden passing shocked many, and when the email came through, I did not believe it. I’d seen him a few weeks before, and we visited, as always. I had no idea it would be our last visit.
James, like young Rachel, was a person of faith. He knew in his heart that he had a home in heaven.
On many occasions I have used this space to praise someone for their contributions to life here in the Texas hill country. I try to do this while the person is still with us and able to know how much they’re appreciated. It’s an attempt to say thank you. But, I admit, it’s often directed at a person who is of a certain age, someone whose hair is silver, and whose accomplishments span decades.
And I’ve often used this space to praise folks who’ve recently passed away, to remember them, and to tell those they’ve left behind how much they were appreciated.
The events of this week suggest it’s never too early to start -- that one shouldn’t wait until someone else’s autumn years to say thank you for their efforts to make this place a better place to live. I hope the lesson I’ve learned this week is to be thankful, and to express thanks in a better way.
I hope you, too, will consider this lesson. There are people around us who make an extra effort, who are effective, who work harder. They try to do the right thing. They make the difficult look easy.
I hope you’ll join me in thanking them. It costs nothing to say ‘good job.’ It’s easy to say you’ve noticed the someone’s attention to detail, someone who is finishing a big project, or someone who has a big dream.
To the two young adults we recently lost, Rachel and James: thank you for your hard work. You made a difference to our community. You will be missed.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes long walks with Ms. Carolyn. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 21, 2015.