Hard Lessons

Vaughn Hardacker here. Since my wife passed (thirteen years ago on October 16) I


have dreaded October and the feelings it invoked. Well, September has surpassed it by far. On September 3, 2017, my youngest grandson died from injuries incurred in a motorcycle crash–he was just shy of his 24th birthday (which is today as I write this.)

This year, my partner, Jane, lost her older brother to cancer also on September 3…what was it baseball great Yogi Berra said: It’s deja vous all over again.” Later that week an old friend of Jane’s called and informed her that his partner had passed a few days before.

I only wish that I was finished. On September 12, I lost my biggest fan, my sister-in-law passed. Other than my late wife, Shirley had been one of the most faithful and supportive forces in my writing career. When I visited her brother, my brother-in-law Jimmy, he informed me that a niece had also passed away.

This year has been horrible when you consider what  we’ve lost. In August, Lea Wait lost her valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. Throughout my life there has been any number of people who taught me (or at least tried) how to live. My late wife, Connie, and Lea showed me something that is possibly more valuable–they taught me how to die. While serving in Vietnam I saw a lot of sudden violent death; in no way does it compare to the way these brave people died. In Vietnam we knew death was always hanging over our heads, but we were able to push it to the back of our minds because when it would happen was still an unknown. Jane’s brother, Skip (Marvin Hartley Jr), kept telling everyone that he was doing fine and going to beat the cancer in his shoulder, lungs, and brain. He stayed upbeat and did all he could to take care of those around him. No one in our family knew that Shirley was dealing with major health issues. Through out her battle against cancer, my wife maintained her sense of humor laughing and joking with me while we filled out paperwork for her cremation. She consoled our grandson (the same one who I like to believe is with her now) and was so positive that we all were certain she’d win. When the end came it was quick, shockingly so.

After her diagnosis, Lea continued attending writing conventions and events. She smiled and was her usual amiable self in spite of the fact we all saw the weight she had loss and how pale she was. Because I’d fought this battle with my wife, I knew she was in pain and suffering the effects of chemotherapy. Not once did I hear her complain or ask “Why me?”

I don’t know if I have the courage to act as these brave people did. I’m well aware that death is an appointment we all have ahead of us, but we don’t know the date and time. I am now 72 and pretty much stay to myself. However, I have come to realize that there seem to be only three times when a family or old friends get together: weddings, class reunions, and funerals. Unfortunately, there seem to be more of the latter than there are of the other two. A website which keeps track of all of the Caribou High School grads who leave us has become larger and larger. It is fast reaching the point where the list of those who can’t attend reunions exceeds the list of those of us who can. If I had any clue that old age was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have worked so hard to get here.

Many years ago, the Marine Corps taught me: “When you get a chance to eat; eat. When you get a chance to sleep; sleep. You never know when you’ll get another chance.” I am realizing how valuable a lesson that was: When you get a chance to help someone–do it. When you get the chance to tell a loved one that you love them–do it. When you get the chance to forgive someone who has wronged you–do it. Because you never know when it will be your last chance.

I will always miss these people and as I look around at my immediate family I see how old we are and the battles with declining health they are fighting. I will do everything I can to help them and stay positive while around them. As I did with my wife. Until then I’ll do my crying in the dark and while walking in the rain.


About Vaughn C. Hardacker

Vaughn C. Hardacker has published seven novels and numerous short stories. He is a member of the New England Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, and the International Thriller writers. Three times he has been a finalist in the Maine Literary Awards Crime Fiction category, SNIPER in 2015, THE FISHERMAN in 2016, and WENDIGO for the 2018 award. The second installment of his Ed Traynor series, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER, was released in July 2019 and is available through all major booksellers. A signed copy can be ordered directly from Vaughn (vhardacker@gmail.com). RIPPED OFF is his most recently published crime/thriller, it was released on January 25, 2023 by Encircle Publications. He is a veteran of the U. S. Marines and served in Vietnam. He holds degrees from Northern Maine Technical College, the University of Maine and Southern New Hampshire University. He lives in Stockholm, Maine.
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23 Responses to Hard Lessons

  1. Reen Carter says:

    Vaughn, thank you for this. It’s a testament to life and love.

  2. Ann Hough says:

    What a beautifully written piece. I have lost numerous family members to cancer and my wonderful husband died 3 years ago this October 29th from cancer. It is such a draining disease to our loved ones and also to those of us who care for them. I am still numb from his death. Reading articles from others who have actually gone through the caring for someone who is dying brings solace that we are not alone.

  3. Lois Bartholomew says:

    Thank you for sharing your insiights, Vaughn. As the weeks speed by and friends and family slip to the other side of the veil, it makes me wonder about my own timeline. Your counsel is important to all of us.

    • Lois, you are welcome. I understand how you feel in regard to your timeline. I found it a sobering moment when I realized that I was rapidly approaching mine. It made me determined to do the most I could for my sibling and friends in the time I have left.

  4. Jo Howell says:

    Sad but important words. Thank you.

  5. Calla says:

    Thank you…at a certain age, there are continuing reminders about life and loss (and yes, love). Your expression was so very thoughtful and valuable for each of us. Be well..lve well…write well.

  6. Betty Tyler says:

    What a wonderful and poignant post! Thank you!

  7. Judy Kraus says:

    I’m so sorry for your losses…no wonder you dread this time of the year. Thank you for sharing this, it couldn’t have been easy. Take care of yourself, the world needs thoughtful and kind people more than ever. Peace be with you.

  8. My mother said, and as I age (71 now), I agree, one sad fact of life is outliving friends and relatives.

    • I am often reminded of a quote by Mark Twain: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” He was right as we age we begin to appreciate how intelligent our parents were.

  9. Thank you all for your kind comments. The one positive to losing loved ones is that in short time those who truly care will rally around you.

  10. L.C. Rooney says:

    Right there with you, my friend. I pray you are spared any more heartache this year. This has been one of the worst, for sure.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thanks. See you at Murder By The Book?

  12. Condolences on your many recent losses, Vaughn. Too many, all at once. We grieve each one and somehow keep going, but sometimes one needs to wail into the rainy darkness. Looking forward to seeing you next month.

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