Category Archives: Tributes

Jack Mehaffey

While making turns with his friends on the opening day of ski season, Jack Mehaffey suffered a stroke on the Susquehanna. Ski patrol responded. Jack’s care was excellent; he was transported rapidly and efficiently.

As Jack reached definitive care quickly, initially, it seemed that his prognosis was good. Though certainly his injury was very concerning, knowing Jack, we all felt that he’d bounce back, maybe even quickly enough to enjoy some more turns with friends come spring time.

In the following days, the news was not so good. Jack was in a coma. The information provided by the machines monitoring his condition was not encouraging.

Chatting at lunch with a mutual ski buddy who too had suffered a stroke, and after a couple of years, has made a nearly complete recovery, we decided that despite the facts of Jack’s condition, we would remain optimistic. We weren’t about to write him off. Jack was one of the best skiers we knew. And skiers, we agreed, are generally a stubborn sort and don’t die easily.

Finally, the news of Jack’s passing reached the mountain earlier this week.

While in coma, he gave us a few days to keep him in the forefront of our mind, and to finally, say so long.

The response from many folks, patrollers and instructors, when asked how they knew Jack, was simply “Jack is family”.

There was an integrity about Jack that made one feel close to him even if one didn’t know him that long. He had a quiet strength that made one feel that, when the chips were down, he’s the guy you want to be at your side.

There was a gentleness and ease about him that one would not expect from someone who had spent a career in law enforcement in one of the toughest cities in the country.

As a husband, son, brother, father, grandfather, police officer, ski instructor, friend, and member of the mountain family, Jack spent his life in service to others.

He suffered the injury that would take him from us among his ski buddies, doing what he loved most.

A rich life sharing love of sport and service to others punctuated among friends on a ski slope is more than most of us could hope for. Even after passing, Jack continues to inspire us.

And, except for maybe a movie star, nobody, but nobody, wore a smile and a mustache as good as Jack did.

Grace

Grace

 

A few years ago, a friend of mine, 44 years old at the time, told me that he had just returned from a meeting with a team of medical specialists in Philadelphia, where he had received definitive diagnosis of his health condition that had eluded the regional medical community for many months.

His diagnosis was not good. Left untreated, the tumor in his chest would exact a fairly swift, painful death. Treat the growth with radiation only, and expect to die within the next 21 months. Have the lung upon which the cancer was feeding removed, and maybe live up to 150 months.

“The worst news of my life.” he told me.

He had two young sons that he adored. In 2 years, they would be barely in their teens. In 12 years they would just be of the age to marry, and begin a family of their own.

He recounted sitting quietly alone in his SUV in the cold, echoey, parking garage of the doctor’s office, ruminating over the news he had just received.

It was contrary to his nature to avoid a challenge. Before leaving the meeting, he had already decided to undergo the surgery, and subsequent radiation treatments if necessary.

Collecting himself, he figured the next right thing to do is to get home, make some phone calls, and schedule appointments and housing in Philly for his prescribed surgery and extended battery of treatments.

The decision made, and now anxious to execute his plan, he turned the key in the ignition, and rushed the big SUV toward the exit, squealing tires echoing against the cold, gray, concrete walls of the garage.

Just as he reached the exit, a sun-glass clad fellow in a business suit, walking on the sunny sidewalk outside of the garage exit, stepped into the path of the SUV so quickly that my friend almost hit him – stopping so close that only the chest and shoulders of the pedestrian remained visible above the black hood of the vehicle.

The fellow in the suit continued his leisurely amble in front of the car, refusing to acknowledge the near collision, or make eye contact with my friend.

Never known for his patience, my friend lowered the passenger side window so he could directly vent some well deserved rage at this apparent idiot who walked in front of his car, almost got hit, nearly adding injuring or killing a person to the day upon which he received “The worst news of my life.”

As the window lowered to it’s fullest extent, my friend could hear a gentle “click, click, click” from the sidewalk. He then noticed that the sounds corresponded to a subtle movement of the man’s shoulder. An instant later, the white red-tipped cane became visible as the man progressed past the SUV. My friend remained silent as he pressed the button to raise the window.

As my friend watched the man continue on his way down the sidewalk,  he thought to himself “I’m not having such a bad day after all”.

Kevin shared these thoughts with me years ago, and said “There, there is your next Wanderlist story”.

Optimistic about his situation, I thought that we would share at least a few more years of friendship. I’d flesh out the notes I took, and finish the story “someday”.  As is human nature, I never really knew when “someday” would be; apparently, “today” is “someday”.

I believe that Kevin’s story is an example of compassion. Every day, we are all challenged or suffering in one way or another. Sometimes our afflictions are obvious to ourselves and others, sometimes not.

Being occupied with one’s own difficulties, real or imagined, can callous us to the suffering of others, thus worsening our collective situation.

On the day he received “The worst news of my life”,  it would have been understandable, though no less tragic, had Kevin been so distracted with his own difficulties that he pressed the brake an instant later,  injuring or killing someone else.

Strength of character, grace, and mindfulness allowed Kevin to rise above his understandably negative emotions,  be present in the moment, and bring to mind compassion for others, thus not making worse an already difficult day.

Thank you, Kevin for sharing about the day you received “The worst news of my life”. I hope my words reflect your thoughts.

Rest well. Peace be the journey, my friend.

 

 

Timmy’s Town Center

timmys_town_centerAs with any community, people are born, marry, mate, and die. The Elk Mountain community is no different, except that a lot of skiing gets done between those milestones of life.

Some of us have been going up and down that hill for half a century. Others have been called from this existence much later; some much sooner.

It is incumbent upon those of us still making the trip up and down the hill to remember and honor those friends and family members who are no longer able to share this joyous routine.

This Sunday, make some runs down the race course on the West Slope – Ted Ligety is not the only champion to ski Elk – there’s a bit of champion in all of us!

Come on out, support a great cause, and honor those of us who have gone before us.
Elk Mountain Memorial Race Benefiting Timmy’y Town Center. Sunday 3/2/14 at Elk Mountain.
1/2 day lift tickets good either 8:30 – 12:30 or 12:30 – 4:30 $25 each.
Race at 1:00 PM on the West Slope. $5 per run.
All proceeds benefit Timmy’s Town Center an interactive children’s museum in Scranton Pa, founded in memory of a little boy who died from cancer.

For tickets call 570-504-3200 or 570-585-2931 or 570-341-1511.

In Between

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Recently, a friend remarked to another “What a beautiful day! I’m so happy and lucky to be on the mountain today!”

A thought that surely has been in many of our minds; words that have come from many of our mouths, sometimes in winter, sometimes not.

Gentility, strength, wisdom, appreciation and compassion enabled my friend to revere the birds, the animals, the trees, the limitless sky, every day he lived, and the beautiful day he tumbled, the day he came to rest.

Friends helped their friend complete his last trip from the top of the mountain, helped ease him from a beautiful day, and stayed by his side as his next journey began, up until the point past which, he must travel alone.

As we fill our hearts with hopes for a swift crossing to an exulted destination, we keep our friend close by keeping in our minds “What a beautiful day! I’m so happy and lucky to be on the mountain today!”