Today Sweetie and I said goodbye to a friend. A true gentleman, Harold Hull lived life on his own terms and said goodbye the same way. As we entered the church, we noticed his white Stetson placed at the altar. He was one of the good guys.
Just 72, he and Rose, the love of his life, had travelled the world – from China to Machu Picchu, Iran to Antarctica. Their journey together was filled with adventure, love, strong family ties, good friends and abiding faith that when the journey on earth ended, a new one awaits in Eternity.
I first met Harold by phone. I was paying my first visit to Arizona, plonked into a small community of people where friendships formed and reformed every spring. Sweetie had, with friends, been coming to the condo we rent each March for a few years. He knew everyone. He enjoyed everyone. He assumed that it would be a simple matter for me to become a member of the group. As someone who is by nature shy, it was not simple at all. But Harold welcomed me, chatting first to me on the phone one evening when the condo was filled with people visiting, sharing stories and frankly, I felt, taking my measure. Harold wanted to know who I was, what I was interested in. There was even a quick venture into politics. He signed off saying he was looking forward to meeting me in person. Which we did a few days later. He and Rose made me feel more at home, when I was struggling to find my place. To decide if I even had one.
Harold had strong political views. Views that in many cases were directly opposed to those held by Sweetie and me. The year the Iraq war began, Sweetie and I landed in Phoenix as military planes were taking off, heading overseas. That evening Sweetie and I were in the pool, enjoying a night swim, when Harold wandered down with a drink in hand. He and Sweetie got into a heated debate about the merits – or lack thereof – of this particular venture. The volume increased, some harsh words were exchanged. It was the kind of argument that could have ended a relationship. But the next day, they agreed to disagree, apologized to each other and moved on. That was a testament I think to the kind of person Harold was.
A few years later, Harold and Rose decided to move permanently to Arizona and made a beautiful home in Chandler, about a half hour drive from the condo. But they continued to stop by and join the daily happy hour by the pool. And they reciprocated the condo hospitality with a happy hour in their home. It wasn’t just any happy hour. Harold and Rose hired a bus each year to take all the condo residents out to their home and back. Partly to allow people to enjoy a few cocktails without having to worry about driving. And partly, I always believed, to send everyone home at the appointed hour – a smart decision.
The party was always a cut above and Harold and Rose were consummate hosts. Their home is warm, tasteful and above all, welcoming. One year Rose took me on a tour of their home. In their bedroom was a spectacular – and enormous – painting that Harold had given to Rose as a birthday gift. They found it on one of their travels – Peru perhaps? They had it shipped in pieces and then had the artist, who happened to be in Chandler when it arrived, put it together. There was also a his-and-hers office. Two computers, two desks, two chairs. The computers showed slide shows of their adventures, always a shot of the two of them together, often a shot of Harold in conversation with a local. Rose provided me with some colour commentary. By this time Harold’s health was in trouble and Rose wondered whether they would be able to travel again. But last year they made it to Iran. Another pin on the map on the office wall. Another set of memories and adventure to hold in her heart.
Harold died a few weeks ago. He and Rose had decided there would be no more trips to treat the cancer that was soon to take his life. When he ended his journey on earth, he left secure in the belief that a new journey awaited him. One free of pain and illness. One that would reunite him one day with Rose.
Today I envy Harold and Rose. Their life together was one few could match. Their faith has given them comfort and helped them navigate the roughest of waters. I’ve always envied people with a deep faith in God, especially when the time comes to say goodbye.