Keeping hope alive during tough times

By Joanne Peterson | Jan 22, 2014

It’s been an eventful weekend. Sometimes events hit me hard, causing my inner resources to be depleted and my energies drained. I feel that way this evening.

My friend Carl Swenson’s memorial service was Saturday. Carl was the kind of guy who made other people want to be better, and Saturday (standing room only) there were plenty of references to his fine character.  A granddaughter enumerated the values her grandpa had taught her. A grandson read a paper he wrote in junior high about his grandfather’s influence on his life.

Several high-ranking Naval officers in uniform testified to Carl’s exemplary service in WWII and in the Naval Reserves, his steady and dependable leadership as a Captain and his generous mentoring. (They also mentioned that it was notable that Carl still fit into his uniform at recent events! He did take pride in his uniform; my favorite photos show Carl in his dress whites, standing tall and proud.)

Carl was a Rotarian for over 50 years, a close friend of my brother Warren, a valued member of the Edmonds Rotary Club and—previously—of the Ballard Rotary Club. As District Governor, he traveled extensively, forming worldwide friendships. “Service Above Self” was a creed he adhered to throughout his life, and it was a comfort to hear so many people speak of Carl’s generosity and encouragement to them, whether as a relative, a friend, a fellow Rotarian or a fellow Naval officer.

Carl Swenson was 91 years old, but few would have guessed his age. He died early Christmas morning, leaving behind a legacy of honor and faithfulness. His youthful smile endured. He delighted in his family and their shared history; he was devoted to his first wife, whom he nursed through years of ill health until her death.

I’m sure Carl never dreamed that in later years he would find another love, his wife Jean Eastman, with whom it seemed he shared a three-year honeymoon. Carl’s spirit was young, his enthusiasm for life never dimmed. Until quite recently, he and Jean traveled. He visited with friends and kept tabs on his hunting buddies. I’m going to miss him.

Also, I just learned that a dear friend has been diagnosed with cancer. Is there anyone anywhere who does not have a loved one with cancer? Yes, treatment is much advanced over a few years ago, and cure rates are higher. With the skills of oncology specialists, the caring of family and friends, the power of prayer, combined with financial support of cancer research, cancer will be defeated. But not just yet.  So one more friend begins treatment, at a time in her life when she should be carefree.

So I’m feeling sad about losing Carl and angry that another of my friends has cancer.  I still believe in a future and a hope, of course. And I’m thankful that people can be counted upon to help each other through grief, fear and the difficult unknowns. It’s just hard sometimes, isn’t it?

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