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The joy of their spirits remain with us


My Thursday started with this comment: “There is more time behind us than in front of us.”

Around noonday, a friend quoted a favorite movie, “The Shawshank Redemption”: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

That evening, I met a student from Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine who introduced me to the Latin phrase “Memento Mori,” which translates roughly to, “Don’t forget, dude, we’re all going to die.”

Encountering that grouping of words as I entered my last week with the Las Cruces Bulletin could have been taken morbidly. Instead, they invoked another Latin phrase, “Carpe diem” -- seize the day!

What do you do when you see a deceased person in your phone contacts? I tend to smile, thinking fond memories. For that reason, I don’t consider deleting them.

In my 13-plus years at the Bulletin, I’ve gotten to know hundreds of wonderful people and, yes, some have gone on.

I think of the famous, such as Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Lou Henson, New Mexico State University’s all-time victories leader, a two-time Final Four coach (including the Aggies in 1970) and an even better person than a coach.

I think of the less famous, such as Jorge Jimenez, the husband of our circulation manager Becky Jimenez, who left his wife and daughter at age 38 in the gloom of Covid.

I remember former Las Cruces city councilor Miguel Silva. I loved his creative thinking, his soulful spirit and, yes, those colorful bow ties.

Former Bulletin circulation manager Alyce Bales was also a colorful spirit, a vegetarian who subsisted largely on Diet Dr Pepper, Nutter Butter cookies and Kool cigarettes. When she got the cancer, she said, “None of that horrible medical treatment.” She went on her own terms, with her God at her side.

With Bernice Binns, you always felt her gentle spirit and the warmth of her smile. It was obvious how vital she was to her husband, Eddie, and their family.

Don Buck was a fun, feisty guy with a crusty edge and a soft heart. He was a World War II Navy veteran, and the spirit of the Rio Grande Rotary Club and the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce for years.

One of Buck’s many fellow Chamber Ambassadors was the irrepressible Mary Beth Reinhart, also one of the greatest ambassadors for White Sands Missile Range, earning a spot in its Hall of Fame. Even after she lost a leg and was confined to a wheelchair, she would seek me out at events. I would bend to greet her and she’d sneak a kiss on my cheek.

A Chamber advocate by marriage was Bill Moore, a New Yorker with whom I discussed Catholicism, Julius “Dr. J” Erving and not sweating the small stuff.

Jud Wright had some of the biggest hands of anyone I knew in Las Cruces. When I shook his hand, I was mystified how those large paws could work such delicate magic with a paintbrush. He was also great to do business with at his print shop. In the local production of “The Sound of Music,” Jud’s daughter, Francesca, beautifully channeled her father’s artistic nature through her voice and stage presence.

I always enjoyed Pat Beckett, the founder of COAS Bookstore. We would find ourselves seated at the corner of a bar, he with his Bushmill’s whiskey and me with my Herradura tequila, talking about history and the future. The paths of Beckett’s age, health struggles and eventual 2020 death were eerily similar to that of my own father, who also passed in 2020. Our conversations reminded me of the ones I couldn’t readily have with my dad, who remained back in Oklahoma.

It can be easy to say, out of context, “Death is another part of life.”

But when people are wrestling with persistent grief, it is difficult to find the right words and ways of comfort and support. This time of year, people can be struggling for many different reasons, usually unknown to us.

Whether people have lost a loved one or are struggling with other difficult life issues – or maybe just because – it never hurts to offer a smile, a hug and a “Peace be with you.”

Peace be with you.