DEER ISLE - Win Griffith, writer, father, appreciator died before dawn on November 4, 2015 on Deer Isle, Maine, his son beside him. He was 84. Of all the words, gratitude was his favorite. Here is why:
Dear people: Parents Evan and Florence of California. Siblings John, Jean and Tony. Son Kevin and his family-Natalie,Liam,Amelia,Charlotte. Daughter Christina and her family-Peter, Liam. His former wife with whom he shared an uncategorizable love, Patricia. Nephews and nieces Mark, Anne, Sarah, James, Peter, Robert, Adam. Later seasons' Loves. Those who bagged his groceries, changed his oil, brought his mail. Caregivers. All within the penciled pages of his treasured blue, taped-together address book including kind sisters-in-law and cousins and childhood, Stanford, Carmel Valley and Vermont friends.
Cherished places: The Golden Gate Bridge. Nepenthe, Big Sur. Monhegan Island. Mt. Ascutney. Penobscot Bay. Montana. Oregon. Einstein Statue, D.C. Portofino, Italy. An oak called The Thinking Tree. Libraries. Protest lines. Newsrooms. His writing desk. Coffee shops. Cross-country drives, windows down, road unfolding.
Words: Steinbeck. Thoreau. Pink Floyd. The Declaration of Independence. Neruda. Pete Seeger singing Guantanamera. The Dictionary. Wendell Berry. Ecclesiastes 3:4. The Shaker Spiritual, "Tis the gift to be simple tis the gift to be free." Letters. This sweetly spoken truth: "I love you granddad." Any effort, by any person, to put life to words. His own block letter on yellow legal pad printed or Underwood then computer typed words: Hubert Humphrey, A Candid Biography, New York Times Magazine articles, Rutland Valley News columns, speeches, haiku, books in progress.
Resilient faith: Weston Priory. St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church. Quaker Meetings. D.C. Baptist church choirs. Woods' fallen log pews. Eucalyptus cathedrals. The sermons of shorelines.
And too: Welsh roots. Early mornings. Conviction. Daffodils. Aaron Copland. Making pesto. Cesar Chavez. Helen Caldicott. Serene Christmas scenes. Guinness. His rescue Bassett, Hopeful. The Treasure of The Sierra Madre. Political campaigns. Hysterical mishaps. Found rocks,sticks,shells. Compassion amid private struggles, painful choices. Belonging. Cheerful greetings. Gentle snowfall. Pie.
We know he appreciates how we remember him here. We know, too, that he is the one who steps from these words toward the company of those with whom he shares this page.
He is introducing himself, asking their names. He is wanting to hear their stories. Genuinely, he is glad to meet them. This makes us smile, brings tears. This is why we will miss him.
But here's what he would say: Feel. It's okay. Now put your boots on and walk your sadness out under this day's sky. See the newly open spaces between the leafless branches. Listen for the owl. Take your time along this trail. Smell the pines. Watch the squirrel gather what he needs. Let the sun warm your face. Greet the one who passes. Breathe deeply. Continue on along.
We will honor his request to scatter his ashes in a peaceful, loved Vermont spot. And in one of our final conversations, he hoped aloud that we would all "keep trying to better some little corner of the world." In this spirit, donations may be sent to Island Nursing Home (587 N. Deer Isle Rd, Deer Isle, ME 04627-"Win Garden Gift") for the tending of the beautiful garden where he often sat, and in his final days, just the thought of which brought comfort.
Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com