Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘sudden death

Sunday Sadness: Florida Condo Collapses

leave a comment »

Folks, a few days ago, one of the oddest and saddest things I’ve ever seen happened. And if you’ve been paying attention to the news in the past few days, you’ve probably heard about it, too.

What is it? Well, a condo inexplicably fell apart. It collapsed into rubble. One half of it did, anyway; the other, inexplicably, stayed up. And over 150 people are still missing, while five have been confirmed dead as of this hour.

These poor souls went to bed, and sometime around midnight or one a.m. the building collapsed. Some were found the first day, including a young son who lived though his mother did not; another family of three has its father missing, while the mother and daughter are in stable condition after surgery. There are other stories, but those were the ones that stuck with me.

This happened in the community of Surfside, Florida. Surfside has numerous condos near the beach. They’re luxurious places, though some middle class people lived there also. Various communities such as the Orthodox Jewish community, the Cuban-American community, and a number of South American countries were represented there.

I’m sure the folks who lived there, or who were staying temporarily (as were at least three people named so far), felt they were safe when they went to bed.

This whole story is shocking, appalling, frustrating, upsetting, and reminds me of the adage that goes like this: “Life is short. Make every minute count.”

(You do know how hard that is to do, right? Many of us want to live our life in gratitude and harmony and appreciation, but have situations that make such things very difficult to obtain. But I digress.)

I feel terrible for the youngster who lost his mother. I feel awful for the mother and daughter, who have no idea where their husband and father is, or if he made it out alive. I feel despondent when I think about all the innocent people there who did nothing wrong, some of whom probably saved all their lives so they could live in a condo by the Pacific Ocean, and how they died.

In a way, it’s miraculous that the whole building didn’t come down. But I’m betting the folks who lived are not all that happy right now. And I don’t blame them.

All I can say is this: If you have loved ones, give them an extra hug today. If you have pampered pets, give them an extra treat or pat or walk or something they’ll like that they normally don’t get. (A dog that gets walked twice a day may really enjoy that third walk.) If you have friends who you haven’t spoken to in a while, try to get in contact with them in the weeks ahead. (I have to do this myself, so don’t feel bad if you’re in this situation.)

Do something kind for someone who doesn’t expect it, too.

And remember those folks who died in Surfside, will you please? Because their lives had meaning, worth, and value. They did not deserve to die, most especially not in that scary and shocking way.

——-

P.S. So far, I haven’t seen any appeal via any crowdsourcing app regarding financial support for those who lived. (My guess is that young boy is going to need financial assistance, but no one’s said anything yet.) When I do, I’ll try to post an update or an additional post.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 27, 2021 at 1:54 am

MLB Pitcher Tyler Skaggs Dies at 27

leave a comment »

I didn’t know anything about major league baseball pitcher Tyler Skaggs, before yesterday.

Then I found out that Skaggs had died at the young age of 27. No one’s sure why. He went to bed in a hotel room in Texas, as his team, the Los Angeles Angels, was about to play the Texas Rangers. And he never woke up. No foul play was suspected.

Skaggs’ death reminded me right away of another tragic and early death in major league baseball. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile died in 2002 at the age of 32 after going to bed in his hotel room while traveling with his team. No one suspected foul play there, either — and indeed, there was none. In Kile’s case, he had undiagnosed atherosclerosis — and it was so bad, it caused him to have what amounted to a massive heart attack. (Blood could not get to the heart properly, I think was the cause — but this happened in 2002, so don’t quote me.)

Skaggs’ death, as awful as it was, appears to have been a natural one.

Now, athletes — major league athletes in particular — tend to get the best possible medical care. They know so much more about how their bodies work, and why they do this, that, and the other; they know all sorts of things about fast-twitch reflexes, and they can repair ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments) to fix blown-out knees, and they can do Tommy John surgery to fix blown-out arms.

But with all that the doctors know, there’s still a great deal they don’t know.

My father calls this “the practice of medicine.” (As in, they’re just practicing.) And I suppose that’s as good a way to look at it as any, when it comes to sudden and unexpected deaths.

You may be wondering why this bothers me so much.

Years ago, when I was a child, I remember being at a Brewers game at Milwaukee County Stadium (the old stadium). New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson had just died in a plane crash, and there was a moment of silence for him. (Munson was a pilot, and was in the air in his own plane on his day off, if memory serves.)

I hated the Yankees. They were the Brewers biggest nemesis in the whole wide world. But I realized that day that Munson, as well as being a fantastic player, was a fellow human being, who left behind a family and friends and colleagues.

That, too, went through my mind when I heard about Skaggs’ passing.

Skaggs sounds like he was a very good man, in addition to being a good pitcher. He’d been involved in the California Strong campaign along with Brewers Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich, and Mike Moustakas; they all raised money for the victims of the California wildfires.

So, as in the deaths of Munson and Kile, Skaggs’ death has left big holes in the hearts of his wife and children; his extended family; his friends; and his colleagues.

All I can do is send a prayer or two, and hope it’ll do some good somehow.

If you’re so inclined, that may be a good idea also.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 2, 2019 at 4:44 am

My Teacher and Mentor, Tim Bell, dies at 75

with 4 comments

Folks, it is with profound sadness that I write this blog. Just yesterday, I wrote about how Tim Bell, my teacher and mentor for many years, was going to play very difficult and challenging parts for the Racine Concert Band on one rehearsal, and that I was sure he’d do well, after our normal first-chair clarinetist could not play due to an unexpected and unfortunate event.

And Tim did just that. He was brilliant on the Surinach. He was phenomenal on the Copland. And he sounded great on the other three pieces we played, too.

Then today, Tim died of a heart attack. He was seventy-five, and he lived the way he’d wanted to live, and he played music at a high level until the very end of his life. (All of that is good, and true, and real…but I wish I hadn’t had to write them just yet.)

Plus, Tim was the type of guy who’d do anything for anyone. (I’m so upset, I nearly wrote that the other way around. Tim would’ve laughed at that and told me not to worry about it, no doubt.)

After I started playing again in 2011, I reconnected with Tim. We played in the RCB together, though he almost always played clarinet and I almost always played the alto sax. (Note that I also play clarinet and oboe, and Tim played all the saxes plus clarinet and, I believe, a bit of flute. Though he didn’t necessarily feel confident with his flute playing.) And Tim knew what I was going through, as a too-young widow with health issues, and that I’d felt I’d wasted my time and wasted my talents.

Tim told me more than once that I hadn’t failed. No matter what it looked like, I hadn’t failed. I did what I could. I got my Master’s, against long odds. I found the right man and married him, again against long odds. And that so much had gone wrong, that so much had been difficult, that it was impossible for me to play for years after Michael died as I was too sad to even look at the instruments…well, Tim told me the important thing was to keep going, and keep doing. And that I still had the skills, and he was glad I was using them to my fullest.

Even last night, Tim told me I played well. As I was playing the second parts again, and most of the time no one cares when you play the second part, I was a little surprised. But if anyone could tell when I was playing and when I wasn’t, it would be Tim…he was my teacher for almost three years after I returned to get a Bachelor’s, and after I got it, for the rest of my life he was my admired mentor and friend.

(Yes, I told Tim he played well. He did, too. He sounded great, and he covered the parts he’d learned as if he’d been playing them all along. He was uncomfortable when I told him he played well, too, just saying a gruff “Thank you” and then turning the conversation aside. That was Tim’s way.)

Tim was a music educator, played jazz and classical music, and could do anything at all as a musician that was needed. He was smart, funny, sometimes acerbic, enjoyed going to have drinks after concerts with the band (whenever I went, I was always charmed by Tim and Tim’s stories, too; he had the best ones), and was a genuinely good and caring person.

Tim was full of life, and full of music. I thought the world of him, and enjoyed learning about music and life from him. He was a phenomenal teacher, who never forgot his students and always tried to encourage them, even years after he’d last seen them.

I don’t know of any better epitaph than that.

If you knew Tim, or want to talk about other admired mentors, teachers, or good friends who’ve passed on, go ahead and leave a comment. I’ll appreciate that. (And if anyone can come up with a good way to help Tim’s name and talents live on with the next generation of Southeastern Wisconsin’s musicians, I’d appreciate hearing that, too. Something has to be done.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 18, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Death and the Miami Marlins

with 4 comments

Folks, before I begin this post, I figured I’d explain where I’ve been the past four-five days. (No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth, nor did my in-progress novel CHANGING FACES swallow me up.) It’s a simple explanation — my computer adapter fried — but it’s the third or possibly the fourth time in the past year my adapter has done this. I have a new adapter now, thankfully, and am back online…and will be looking for a way to purchase a backup adapter soon. (Can’t yet, but it’s at the very top of my priority list.)

Now, to the blog.

When the news broke on Sunday that Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernandez had died in a boating accident, I was stunned. Fernandez was only twenty-four years old, and was having an outstanding year…his personal story of escaping from Cuba (he had to try multiple times before he successfully got out), his infectious joy, and his youth all touched my heart.

For several hours on Sunday, I had a hard time thinking about much else, other than Fernandez’s early death. Bad enough to die at twenty-four, but worse yet when your girlfriend was pregnant with your child.

It was a devastating loss on every level, that Fernandez was gone, suddenly and without warning. And the Marlins clearly felt it, postponing Sunday’s game.

After that, on Monday evening, the entire team wore Fernandez’s jersey number (16) as a tribute. Leadoff hitter Dee Gordon stepped into the opposite side of the batter’s box to honor Fernandez, and took a ball. (Opposing team New York must’ve known something like that was likely, I’m guessing.) Then, after stepping into the batter’s box  the usual way, Gordon did something he hadn’t done all year long.

He hit a home run.

The Marlins romped to a win, but that wasn’t why Gordon’s HR was so meaningful. It was the way he did it. He made it clear from the get-go that Fernandez was on his mind, and so did the rest of the Marlins, including all the coaches (manager Don Mattingly was particularly teary-eyed) and front office personnel.

And the classiness didn’t end there.  Even the Mets’ players cried after Gordon hit the homer, and during the seventh-inning stretch (where a trumpet played a solitary version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in a muted, moody tone). And they, along with many other teams around major league baseball, hung Fernandez’s jersey up as a show of support.

The Marlins win on Monday night was cathartic for fans, players, the management, and around baseball. It helped ease the pain a little, and helped honor Fernandez the best way the Marlins had to offer — by winning, and talking about their lost teammate, and wishing he were back with them.

All that said, I want to say a few words about the two others who died during that tragic accident, Emilio Macias and Eddy Rivero (both twenty-five). They had gone to Fernandez’s boat late at night because according to this article from Fox News Latino, Fernandez and his girlfriend had argued that evening. No one’s talking much about Macias and Rivero, but they were doing what good friends are supposed to do during a time of crisis — they were supporting their buddy, and they were trying to calm him down.

Their friendship mattered, and I honor them.

I do not understand why these three young men died that evening. I wish I could do something, anything, to bring them back. But it’s good that people are remembering Fernandez’s life and career.

Now, my hope is that people will also remember Macias and Rivero.They both have GoFundMe pages (go here for Macias and here for Rivero), as their families need help with burial expenses. If you can help them, please do it — and if you can’t, say a prayer for them, and for the loved ones they left behind.

Because that helps, too. Even if it’s not nearly enough.

When Life is More Important than Writing

with 4 comments

The past few days, I’ve not blogged, I’ve rarely spoken (except to good friends), and I’ve been unusually uncommunicative.

Why?

Well, my cousin Jacki passed away suddenly. She was only a few years older than me, and I hadn’t seen her in over ten years . . . but I always felt close to her.

Maybe it’s strange that I’m saying that, as I hadn’t seen her in years, hadn’t even talked to her by telephone since before my husband Michael died, and mostly had kept track of her doings online.

But I’d hoped to see her this summer. . . I hadn’t yet figured out how, as money is always a problem, but I still planned to go see her and my other cousins. Didn’t tell her, or my cousins, because I didn’t want to get their hopes up —

But now, I won’t have the chance.

Jacki is dead. And now, it’s left to me and anyone else who cared about her to comfort those still alive — most particularly her sisters and brothers.

Mind you, it’s hard to know what to say at a time like this, even though I’ve been through something similar. Grief is different for everyone, you see, and it’s a journey that I’ve intensely disliked . . . I’d not wish this on my worst enemy. Much less my cousins, who are normally full of life and all its joyous exuberance.

Even so, I will do and say what I can, at least at a practical level. That’s all I can do.

But anything I say to them seems pointless right now. I know it will not bring Jacki back.

This is a time when life has trumped writing. All of my words seem without resonance, without purpose . . . without life.

I know that’s an illusion, mind. Words are all we have, and perhaps by speaking of my cousin at her funeral, and by continuing to remember her, we’ll summon up some of the good memories — of which there were many.

Even so, my heart remains troubled.

I’ve had a bellyful of mortality. I’ve lost my amazing husband Michael, my best friend Jeff, several other friends, my Aunt Micki — my grieving cousins’ mother — last year, and now, I’ve lost Cousin Jacki as well.

This just does not seem fair or just, at all, no matter what the rewards of Heaven are said to be by various religions.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 7, 2014 at 5:16 am