S: A Book of Love and Family
FC: live well, laugh often, love much
1: "A memory is a photograph taken by the heart to make a special moment last forever." ~ George W. Douglas
2: A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." -Washington Irving"
8: "Love is the greatest refreshment in life." ~ Pablo Picasso
9: Families are forever...
14: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words
15: Cherish The Ones You Love
27: A little heaven on earth...or maybe in the sky...
28: How Sweet It Is To Be Loved | Live well, laugh often, love much
38: "He holds her hand,She holds his heart."
41: Rainer, Your dear wife, Linda has invited me to recount some of my experiences with you for a Celebration of Your Life. Now you know how persistent “Momma Linda” can be when she wants something done; so I agreed. However in thinking about how to adequately accomplish this labor, four (4) things became readily apparent. First, I try to avoid public speaking at all cost. I am not good at it. Second, I have had the distinct honor and privilege of having you as part of my life and family for close to forty years, (the majority of not only my adult life but also my entire life). Third, this labor is turning into a labor of love as I have come to love and respect you as a second brother. Fourth, as you know, you, Linda, Rosemary, I, and our children have been raised in the Christian faith. If we pay attention to our Faith, we believe life is a continuum encompassing the past, present and future in all of its stages whether here or whether in Heaven. Also, I am one of those people who believe that loved ones, regardless of their stage in life, can “correspond” with other loved ones. Thus, to honor Linda's request and to say to you some of those things I did not get around to telling you before you moved on to this new stage in your life, I have chosen to write you this letter; and have Mark read it at the Celebration. If my belief about being able to correspond with loved ones regardless of their stage in life proves to be inaccurate, then I will tell you about what I wrote when I see you next. Your beginning was not easy being born during the height of World War II in Swinemunde, Germany and your family having to endure for a number of years in a horrendous war zone. Your mother, Mutti, had to separate from Gerhard, your father, who was first interned by the German military and then by the Americans and had to flee to the forested German countryside with you, your sister, Hertha, and Mutti’s parents in order for all of you to survive. There she struggled to acquire enough food for all of you including Gerhard by, among other things, selling the family's furniture. Also, as soon as she obtained bread she toasted it to keep it from spoiling, thus making it last longer. Then she would bicycle to where Gerhard was being held to share some of the toasted bread. She also ventured into the surrounding forest to illegally gather twigs and branches and, if necessary, chop down trees for heating. Had Mutti been caught she could have been imprisoned or worse. She did all this and more to keep all of you safe and fed. | A letter, a story, a great and beloved man, husband and father...
42: Gerhard, together with the other engineers and scientists that would ultimately be brought to America for their rocketry knowledge, were constantly being moved all around what became East Germany by the American military to keep them from the Russians. This made things much more difficult for your mother and Gerhard. They lost contact: something not uncommon in war torn Germany. Also during this time, all of the German engineers and scientists were attempting to negotiate being allowed to bring their families with them as part of their immigrating to America rather than to the U.K. or Russia. (A family being allowed to immigrate with their husbands/fathers was initially resisted by the American government.) Along with not knowing where your father actually was or whether he was in good health or even alive, this immigration situation raised the real possibility that you might never see your father again (a terrible possibility for a young child to have to contemplate). Ultimately negotiations were successful and you, Hertha and Mutti were allowed to follow Gerhard who the U.S. Government had already illegally brought into the U.S.; kind of deported to Mexico and then legally brought back into the U.S. (No one ever said our military bureaucracy can’t be creative. G.I.’s can always find a way). For the actual journey by troop transport, each of you were allowed one (1) wooden suitcase for all your worldly possessions on the trip. You still have those suitcases. They can best be described as crude, similar in shape and about half (12) the size of a WW II 105mm howitzer ammo box (a lot of wood with little space). Coming to America, you and your sister spoke no English; had no friends outside of the very small group of Germans that immigrated with you; and landed in a culture that, at that time, was totally alien. Your sister, Hertha told me that you and she had to start school without speaking English. Also as the “new kid on the block” and being German, you were constantly being bullied by some of the American kids whose families had lost or who had disabled family members because of the war. But none of that slowed you down. You and your sister became so comfortable with English that like typical American kids you pushed back on your parents’ insistence that you speak German at home and started to respond to their German in English. Hertha told me the story that by the time you were teenagers your parents were finally financially able to take the two of you on ski vacations. Your dad who had been a champion downhill skier in Germany (which you told me you were never able to beat racing) taught you and Hertha how to ski and a passionate love of the sport.
43: During one such trip when he was teaching both of you, since he did not know the English ski terms he was loudly giving instructions and encouragement in German; and the two of you were responding in English. This so befuddled a passing skier that he had to stop Hertha and inquire how she knew what Gerhard was saying and how he knew what she was saying. It took a moment for Hertha to realize why he was so puzzled. You and she had become so accustomed to simultaneously conversing in two (2) languages, that it felt natural and effortless. As part of your Americanization, you became an Eagle Scout, a uniquely American thing at that time; earning, among other things, a merit badge in Astronomy and, consequently, a love for the galaxies. This love was quite evident when we floated down the Grand Canyon and at night you would regale us with the names of all of the star formations. But you didn’t stop with just being an Eagle Scout. You took it up a notch and became an Explorer Scout; teaching Boy Scouts. Also at the strong urging of your parents, you took piano lessons. (Parents can really be insistent at times.) However being an American adolescent, you rebelled somewhat and took to playing ragtime instead of the classics. Your sister believes you did that just to drive your mom nuts. (That was very American.) In college you employed your musical talents and were in a band; refining your skills playing ragtime and the popular music of the day (again, a very American thing). This was, apparently where you became passionate about ragtime. During all of your early years from childhood to early adulthood you were instilled with those wonderful values and traits that have stood you well. This was primarily the result in no small part because of your loving parents parenting skills in spite of them having to contend with, as Linda puts it, your “muleheadness”. These wonderful values and traits include: Your unlimited love of and devotion to your Lord Your unlimited love of and devotion to Linda Your unlimited love and devotion to Tracie, Chris, and Heidi Your unlimited love of your parents, sister and the rest of your German family Your unlimited love of Linda’s family as part of your American family Your lifelong endeavor to be honorable Your respect (another form of love) and consideration for your fellow man Your never ceasing quest for enlightenment Your never settling for half measures (110 % minimum) Your significant intellect Your wonderful sense of humor
44: After obtaining your Electrical Engineering degree from Georgia Tech and becoming a “Rambling Wreck”, you were commissioned into the U.S. Air Force. As I understand, it was around this time that you met that so very special person that was to become your “BFF” (best friend forever), confidante, lover, mother of your children, and wife, Linda. She agreed to marry you. Why, I am not too sure, especially after the way you proposed and almost didn’t manage to give her an engagement ring. Really! You had taken leave from the Air Force and gone over to Germany where Linda was working at that time. The two of you then traveled in a VW, in the middle of a winter, around Germany for two (2) weeks visiting your relatives so she could meet them. Typical of your frugal nature you had the two (2) of you sleep in that VW notwithstanding it was in the middle of a cold German winter. Then after the two (2) weeks of visits were concluded and Linda had taken you to the Frankfurt airport for your flight, and was waiting with you in the terminal for your flight to be called you proposed and then promptly boarded your plane back to America. Because you had not given her an engagement ring at the airport you mailed it to Italy where she was to visit. She had left Italy by the time it arrived. So it was returned to you; and you then sent it to Germany where she had returned. But again, she had moved on so it was sent back to you. You finally got it right and gave it to her when she arrived home in Bessemer. Seriously though, from the day you both knew you wanted to be together forever, your unlimited love and devotion for each other has always been and is so very apparent to all of us. You finished each other's sentences and thoughts. You knew what the other was thinking. You delighted in the others accomplishments. You helped the other with the tough chores but also with the small ones. Your faces lighted up when the other entered the room. You were always so very comfortable with the other. You gently touched each other for no apparent reason. You laughed often together. You loved to be together. You truly loved to love each other.
46: You were devoted to your children; reveling with immense pride in their accomplishments. You loved them so much that you instilled in them those wonderful values you have lived by. Also, you would patiently help them with their school work and answer those questions only children can ask in their seeking enlightenment. When Heidi was competing in gymnastics you would enthusiastically take her to her matches many of which were out of town and cheer her on; win or lose. When Chris got into skateboarding, together the two of you built a huge ramp for him to prefect his skills. Though the neighbors weren’t thrilled, you allowed him to put it in the driveway in front of the house. (There was an even bigger “half pipe” ramp they built in the backyard). When Chris got his driver’s license the two (2) of you rebuilt your old VW bus. As Tracie advanced in her photography you would help her mount her work and set up for her shows. She is also passionate about perfecting her art. Wonder where she got that passion from? You would never miss an opportunity to take your children and Linda on vacations, especially ski vacations and vacations to uniquely interesting places with lots of geographical, historical or archeological significance You instilled in them a passion for skiing and for geography, history and archeology. In short you so very much loved them and loved being and doing things with them. And, they love you for it. You loved and admired and were so proud of Gerhard. From the few times I met him I know he felt the same about you. You were a loving and devoted son to your Mutti taking care of her in her final years here. The Fourth Commandment of the Ten Commandments, “Honor thy Father and Mother” is said to be the hardest to keep. Without reservation, those of us who know of your loving relationship with your mother and father can truthfully attest that you faithfully and diligently kept the Fourth Commandment. By now, I suspect that you have had a wonderful reunion with your parents; and, I bet they are telling you just how proud they are of you. You also have always kept your sister, Hertha, close to your heart. As to the rest of your German family, most of which are in what used to be Eastern Germany, it has been difficult for you and Linda and Tracie, Chris and Heidi to get together with them because of the great distance. Also due to the nature of your work during the Cold War you were restricted from visiting.
47: Never-the-less, in your never settling for half measures way you were persistent in keeping up with them in spite of these significant impediments. Then, after the wall came down, you worked diligently for you and your family to visit them in Germany as often as feasible and for them to visit you and your family at Tree Point. You truly loved them all. You could never get enough of family; so you took on Linda’s family, including her extended family, as part of yours. You made Carter and Frances your second set of parents; becoming the son they never had. You also became the brother Rosemary never had; being exasperating at times but always unconditionally loving her sister, Linda. Then you took to raising my two (2) sons during their long summer visits growing up; treating them as your own. You would also take them with you and your family on many of your vacation trips. Matt inherited his passion for skiing from you because of all those Heller family ski trips. Mark loves Europe because of Heller trips. I also know that they would sometimes seek out your opinion on things they were contemplating and you would patiently advise them. Because of your love for them they don’t think of you as an uncle but rather love you as a second dad. As for as our relationship: we agreed that you’re my second brother. You really could not get enough of family. Tracie in talking about you described how Tree Point was your pride and joy and that you had an “open door” policy of taking in people in dire straits. Tree Point was truly yours and Linda’s sanctuary. But over and over, the two of you would share Tree Point and your hearts with virtual strangers that were in dire straits. Again, true to form you did not undertake these endeavors in half measures. You didn’t just provide them with a place to stay. Rather you made them part of your family; would counsel them; would help them work through their issues; and then made sure they were back on their feet before you let them move on to their new, better lives. Whether it was family, friends, co-workers, those you took in, or those you just met, you always tried to treat them with respect and consideration. Did you succeed? Well, when all of these many folks learned of your illness, besides including you in their prayers, they did not just ask how they could assist. They demanded to know what was needed so they could go accomplish it; or, they just selflessly went and did those things they knew were needed. You and Linda are so preciously wealthy in the way it truly matters. The two of you possess a multitude of loving family and friends. I suspect that with your love of others you can’t stop yourself from acquiring many new friends in your new surroundings; and, with your never ceasing quest for enlightenment that you are happily discovering astounding things. It would not surprise me if you have already looked up Scott Joplin and the Arch Angel Gabriel, (who plays a mean trumpet), to start a ragtime band. I would be curious to know if this is considered Heavenly music. As far as enlightenment, you probably now know what came before the “Big Bang” and what life of the far reaches of the universe is like. Wow! The stories you will be able to tell Linda when you get together next will be awesome!
48: You were never an overly demonstrative person. Rather, utilizing your significant intellect, you preferred to accomplish things with an abundance of thoroughness and quiet efficiency. This is the way you attacked your cancer. You were both fortunate and, some would say, un-fortunate in the type of resources you had available to assist you in thoroughly understanding all aspects of the disease as it was evolving, your options and their consequences and the probable outcomes. These resources included a hospital pharmacist, Linda, who understands in detail the characteristics of the many drugs that would be employed and an RN who has involvement with Oncology and access to data on the latest cutting edge cancer technology, Rosemary. Linda and Rosemary objectively presented you with all of the facts in the manner that a scientist must have them in order to make an accurate informed conclusion. Digesting the information you were receiving you put all of your intellect and analytical skills toward conquering the cancer. But because of your scientific and engineering background you quickly recognized the extremely low probability of succeeding. It was at this point that you did something extraordinary: something that those of us who witnessed it will always be comforted by it. You accepted the scientific conclusion that the probability of succeeding was virtually nil with extraordinary grace. You never got angry, complained or showed any fear or anxiety. When this conclusion was actually confirmed you continued to accept it with complete equanimity. In fact, during this time you were more concerned with how your situation was affecting Linda, your family and your friends including your co-workers. I can only believe that you understood that though man using the scientific knowledge the Lord has guided him to discover will one day conquer cancer; but the Lord’s Plan did not include revealing this mystery at this time. And, you knew the Lord has other use of you. When Linda was telling of your final hours before you had to leave on your journey to your new stage of life, she explained that “[you] were fighting to endure, but we kept releasing [you]. As usual per [your] muleheadedness [you] kept fighting. When dawn was upon us then [you] let your sprit be released to God.”
49: I do not believe you were being “muleheaded”. By waiting until dawn was upon us and life was awakening, I believe you were gently telling Linda and the children just how wonderfully well lived each day of your time together with them has been and for them to continue to live well each day. As the poets wrote: Listen to the exaltation of the dawn! Look to this day! For it is life, the very life of life. In it's brief course lie all the verities and realities of your existence. The bliss of growth, the flory of action, the splendor of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision. But today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this day! Such is the salutation of the dawn.
50: Also by starting your journey as dawn was upon us, you reminded us all of what Psalm 91 and Isaiah 40:31 show us. You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord Who abide in His shadow for life, Say to the Lord: “my refuge, My God in whom I trust!” And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand. And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand. You are an honorable and Godly man Rainer Heller. Vaya con Dios