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Gary Horton: There is no if ... just and

Full Speed to Port

Posted: July 21, 2009 8:39 p.m.
Updated: July 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

“Remember the last time I told you I love you —
It was warm and safe in our perfect world —
‘I said I love you,’ I said ... and you didn’t say a word.

“Just held your hands to your shining eyes
And I watched as the tears ran through your fingers
Held your hands to your shining eyes and cried ...

“‘If you die’ you said, ‘so do I’ you said —
But it ends the day you understand …
There is no if ... just ‘and’
There is no if ... just ‘and’
There is no if ...”

The Cure
 
Abe and Virginia likely never heard the Cure rock tune, “There is no if.”

Their generation, three generations back were Benny Goodman guys — born early enough to say “goodbye” to ragtime and hello to big-band jazz.

Still, knowing their deep understanding of life, they surely would have loved this modern love song.

Not that Virginia would fall too far head over heals for any pop music.

Daughter of a pastor, valedictorian of her high school, beautiful, stately, sincere — Virginia most surely could have heated up a dance floor — but never to excess.

Virginia seemed to inherently understand the balance, purpose and practices of a good life.

Together with Abe, their lives full of learning, giving, service and survival gave them deep and refreshing perspectives moving forward.

The Virginia I knew, above all else, was polished, humbly sophisticated, balanced and giving.
Jazz? Sure.

But Debussy and Mozart filled her collections beyond any measure Benny G. would have.

Add in “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and sacred music, and a picture of Virginia’s groundedness begins to emerge.

Surely, a “mighty fortress” was her God.

I first met Virginia in our Christ Lutheran Sunday school eight or nine years ago. She would have been 82 years old or so at the time.

Picture 82 going on 32, with a mind as sharp as the best Ph.D. candidate in the midst of youthful studies.

Virginia was still in the pool in the mornings at 82, 84, 86 ... still swimming, working out, getting out and making herself and her God known.

Imagine an 80-something dynamo and the picture of Virginia is further detailed.

We loved Virginia and love Abe for their ageless grounded reasoning and living.

Lutherans as a group tend to trend and act older.

But when Abe and Virginia first dropped into our Sunday-school class those years back, as they marched in, any preconceived biases of age or vitality were pushed out.

The great thing about being mature and youthful at the same time is the wisdom that converges with that special timelessness.

I don’t know their politics, but I know Abe and Virginia’s wisdom.

And at 80-plus, neither was in any mood to back down to a wayward Sunday-school teacher or this or that L.A. Times or Signal essay bent out on some tangent.

My guess is that the Times “letters to the editor” guy had a special cubby just for Virginia’s letters.

They spoke their minds, spoke it with conviction, clarity and balance.

Most importantly, they spoke and acted with heavy doses of pragmatism born from experience.

Live through the Depression, through World War II, through Korea, Vietnam, Watergate, raise three kids and teach thousands more, and you begin to have perspective on life and people and America that the current “me” generation will never, ever acquire.

Living through it all only seemed to make Virginia more assured and life-positive.

Every now and again, one bumps into a soul or two who invigorates and sets standards that are life-changing for those around them.

Carrie and I look to Virginia and to Abe and say, “That’s how we want to be, that’s how we want to think and most importantly, that’s how we want to love for the rest of our lives.”

Virginia had survived two prior husbands; Abe survived a prior wife. Yet to see them in winter years of life together, it still seemed like refreshing spring.

Virginia and Abe made age seem ageless and youth seem almost folly.

I saw Abe at church this past Sunday. He was with his daughter from New Mexico.
Virginia’s funeral was Saturday.

She had died unexpectedly after a planned surgery. Abe was strong, tender and composed — still “Abe.”

There’s terrible grieving, I’m sure. But after all their long experience, I suspect both understood that in life and death, “there is no if ... just and.”

And so Abe will continue, and we have faith Virginia will continue, and Virginia’s example continues to motivate us to embrace and engage every moment we still have.

And thank you Virginia, for your incredible inspiration and contribution for all of us.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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