My Dear Friends and Family,
In a previous post I have introduced you to my oldest brother, Raymond, who made it past 102, giving me yet another illusion that life is eternal. Well, my friends…
Life is what happens while you’re making plans.
His daughter, Patricia, requested my thoughts about my brother to be read at his funeral this week. I share them with you below.
Love – Sally-Jane
P.S. Much of this story is the epilogue to my memoir-in-progress.
Thank you so much for reading my words to the assembled. Raymond Edward Heit was your father and my oldest brother.
The first Heit to be born of the union of Anna Kramer and Louis Heit on July 29th, 1920. Seven more children, Allyn, Marilyn, Elliot, Lucille, David, Sally-Jane, and Arlene were to follow.
Anyone who knew Raymond, knew he was not one to bother with newfangled inventions like the computer. He didn’t go as far back as the Pony Express but I think we would all agree he would feel more comfortable with a Pony than an email.
This is amazing because as a young boy, he was enamored with the most modern invention of the modern world, the airplane. He was only seven years old when Lindbergh flew solo from New York to Paris. No matter. As a boy, he had the passion and more importantly the genius within to be able to translate that passion into, to this day successfully produced model airplane designs. I have a sneaking suspicion that if our family garage was big enough to hold it, he would have built a for real full size airplane.
I think Raymond didn’t miss any of the juice of life because he didn’t have a computer or until very recently a cell phone. I think all who knew him would agree he was conversant and consciously aware of life in and around him and the world beyond. Beware political discussions.
Raymond was and always has been a brave and yet very pragmatic man. Surviving the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, might have given him a perspective of life few of us can claim.
My knowledge of Raymond is limited. I only became acquainted with him after his 80th birthday.
He was the oldest of the older five of the Heit family, a part of the family that except for my sister Marilyn was basically a mystery to me.
They grew up in a different time zone. The five older Heit’s mother and father were different from the three youngest’s mother and father because by the time the last three came along Anna and Louie were really tired.
You need a lot of energy to corral eight young ones.
Before Raymond’s 80th birthday party, I researched the family myth about his successful model airplane designs. I found, bought and presented him several of the models he had created when he was 17 years old. He was so appreciative. He was 80. I was 67. Our relationship began. We visited. We talked and shared books. I found a brother I had never known. He found a sister. A blessing.
I would like to share with you the epitaph I have written for his life.
On the afternoon of February 20th 2023, Patty called to tell me Raymond was in the hospital.
In many short conversations he and I had over the past year, short was his only version of conversation, he didn’t complain, not his style, but in response to a “how are you” would come a weak reply, “I’m still here.”. He was enduring.
Before last year, he was more than enduring. He was fully engaged with life. Reading, Putting his models together. Driving. I desperately wanted to ask him to send me a slice of his life force.
And then Patty’s phone call.
She was on her way to the hospital. That morning he had called the local hospital.
He hadn’t been able to eat for a few days.
In the tests that followed, a very large tumor was sitting on his thyroid. Only two solutions. A feeding tube or hospice.
Raymond asked Patty what she thought.
“Your choice, Dad.”
“Well, I guess I’ll try the feeding tube.”
Neither of us could believe it.
Completely compos mentis, having endured the worst year of his long life, he chose… life.
The procedure needed to be done at a bigger hospital.
There the doctor did further tests, everyone being amazed by his mental lucidity. The doctors gave him three choices. If he was up for the risk they would attempt a procedure to remove the tumor and the thyroid, or the feeding tube, or hospice.
At this point, Patty asked Raymond.
“Dad! Do you want to die?”
Listening to her on the phone, in disbelief, I blurted out, “Patty, you have some balls.”
She said her father said the same thing, only a little more politely.
“Patty! That’s a very courageous question.”
Patty loved her father. She would help him with whatever he chose. But she needed to know what he wanted… for real.
He answered her question about dying.
On Friday, March 3rd, his mother Anna Kramer Heit’s birthday, knowing full well the risk, the surgery was performed.
On Monday, March 6th, 2023 Raymond left the planet.
He died as he had lived.
As in the song of the same name.
He Did It His Way
There is no better epitaph.