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Published on: June 17, 2015

Losing friends.

CEO, Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce

Dana Dittmar

Dana Dittmar

I had only been on the job here at the Chamber for a few months when we lost our beloved volunteer, Frank King.  Because his work with us meant so much to him, his widow, Mary, asked if we could hold the celebration of his life in the banquet room.  It was the first of four we have held there so far.

Living in Sun City Center, I expect to lose two or three friends every year. It comes with residing in a senior community. But over the past two weeks, I’ve lost three. Losing them was difficult, but it was the difference in the three send-offs that got my attention.

Two of my friends died on the same day, both at Hospice. Janie Hadley was our leader at Feline Folks, a nonprofit dedicated to taking care of abandoned and homeless cats in the community. Even in her last days, she was thinking of the kitties when she asked that we hold a service only to auction off her massive collection of feline-related artwork, knickknacks, and memorabilia. The silent auction and dinner raised almost $2,800.

Anne Madden was a longtime Ruskin native who over the past two years had discovered her passion — volunteering at the Good Samaritan Mission. She, too, was well-respected for her work in the community and had a more traditional farewell with lots of photographs and words from Rev. Bill Cruz.

But when my friend Bob Macpherson died unexpectedly in a car accident, there was no service. At first, his friends and co-workers with Kings Point security were disappointed the family chose not to have a service down here. Yes, all his family was up north. But he had a life down here and his friends miss him.

It turned out Bob was the one who requested no service. So we honored that.  There were small groups who got together, shared some potluck and swapped their favorite Bob memories. Some were lengthy and some were merely anecdotal — he’d stick his tongue out at me when I’d come through the front gates. But he was remembered by those who had come to know him.

I’ve often wondered how many people will come when it’s my turn to transition on.  Is that how we measure the value of our lives? By the number of seats at our funerals?

And now, Husband has informed me one of his bowling buddies passed away last week, so I’ll be adding another service to my calendar. As I said, it comes with living in a retirement community. But when we lose so many in so short a time, it gives us pause. I don’t want to court death by preparing for it, but at the same time, I think it’s time to make my final wishes known so poor Husband doesn’t have to get creative at that time. Providing I go first.

I miss my friends. I miss sharing jokes and talking about our joint passions. But most of all, I miss the value they brought to the lives of others.  Here’s to you, Janie, Anne, Bob and now Ed.  Here’s to you.