It is true what they say, some people come into our lives and quickly go. Other's dance for a while, leaving footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same. I will never be the same after having known Terry. Having known him gives me hope for my future. There are great men out there. There are beautiful souls among us.
December 13, 2007
This was an emotional week for me. My friend Michael, someone who is so dear to my heart that I cannot put it into words lost his father on Tuesday. Michael and I have been friends for a very long time, there is nothing I would not do for this man, and I know that there is nothing he would not do for me. However, to say that this is a trait exclusive to our friendship would be deceitful, Michael would do anything for anyone, and in that, way he is so much like his dad. Terry would have moved a mountain for the people in his life, be it family or friend, there was nothing that he would not do for the people he loved. When you are taken into the Yates' family, you are there for life.
Terry's funeral was yesterday. It was held at Popejoy Hall at UNM and for anyone who has been to Popejoy, you will understand the magnitude of this, the entire lower section of the hall was full. There were literally hundreds of people in attendance at this funeral. I had known Terry for some time, Michael and I went to high school together and became fast friends, so it is only natural that we would spend time with family members. In having known Terry on a personal level, I didn't know so much of who he was academically, I knew he was a gifted professor at UNM, I knew that he did research and that he was brilliant, but the sheer volume of experience, the astounding greatness of this man as a colleague, as a researcher, as a scientist, as a teacher, an administrator, and a friend simply blew my mind. He was the most amazing family man. He is the man that every girl dreams of marrying...that is to say, he is the man who loved his wife so deeply, so profoundly that one might think it could only be found in fairy tales, but he loved his Nancy and his boys. The most beautiful love of any I have ever seen. He adored his sons Brian and Michael. It was intense to feel that kind of love, to be in the presence of such a man such a family. Terry was larger than life; he still is in many ways. Congresswoman Heather Wilson was one of many in attendance and to see the emotion on her face yesterday, a woman who I have met before, but to see the compassion and the sadness on her face seemed remarkable to me. She obviously cared and respected Terry very much, she clearly held him in high regard. They had worked closely together over the years. Deans, professors, administrators, and doctors from all around the country, friends, and family from everywhere, flocked to pay tribute and respects to this man.
Terry died of brain cancer, or more accurately, from pneumonia as a result of the treatment of his cancer. Terry did not go quietly. Terry was always a humble man, never boasting of his successes, never taking more credit than was his due, or even enough credit for his accomplishments. He was an outstanding cook, and friends let me tell you, he threw one hell of a party. The man could party as no one else could. To walk into the Yates' home was to expect that at any moment there could be as many as 20 people in a room laughing, loving, talking and sharing... and that certainly without knowing what had happened you could find yourself in the middle of a party. They know no strangers.
Several years ago, I attended a New Year's Eve party at Casa de Yates and after Michael, James and Terry had fed me a sufficient amount of alcohol, Terry and I were sitting, talking on the couch. Suddenly I was unable to pick my head up or open my eyes, but I could hear Terry telling Michael, "That's it. I am getting dull in my old age, Sarah has fallen asleep mid-conversation" and he laughed his infectious laugh. He put a blanket over me and kissed my forehead. Later, after I woke up again, Michael and I, drunk as drunk could be, sat on the couch, literally with head propped together to stay upright...sat and talked. We finally made our way to his room and we just cuddled (it is what we do; we are cuddlers) and slept and in the morning, Terry made us all breakfast burritos. I talked to Michael's Aunt Patty and we all had an amazing day.
Michael is my rock. He is the one I know I can turn to when my life is feeling lonely or chaotic or out of control and he is the one who I celebrate with when life is joyous. There are many people in my life about which this is true. The thing is there is something about my friendship with Michael that is unique. I know that he will just love me, unconditionally. We have always had that bond. I have not experienced a sweet friendship like ours with many people. We are touchy-feelies and there is a beauty in that physical intimacy of a friendship. In high school, we would just hold hands, just to be touching. Yesterday, I found that nothing has changed; we still hold hands, just to be sure of each other, just to touch. I love that about our friendship, it is so pure, so innocent, and so sweet. I give him back massages and sing to him and he holds my hand and hugs me. We were just always there. I would edit his papers and he would listen to me talk. He would tell me stories and offer support and I would play with his hair. He would never leave me out when everyone else was able to forget me; My Michael is always there. Our souls are connected on a very base level. I know that we were destined to find each other, two souls that found refuge in being friends. I think that my sorrow over the loss of Terry, was heightened because if I have ever felt empathetic to anyone, (and I consider loving people one of my greatest gifts), it was for Michael and Nancy. I cannot explain it, but I felt this intense sorrow beyond my own grief. I knew that I was deeply crushed by the loss of such a great man, but I was almost anxious at the thought of having to see for myself My Michael's pain. I know how great his love for his dad is, and somehow it was as though, through that soul connection, I could feel his sadness too. I saw him enter the hall and I sobbed. My heart literally wanted me to hold him until it was better. I am uplifted by knowing that his new wife Laura is an incredible woman and who loves him very much, and he loves her. It is beautiful. When I saw Michael after the service, he looked up, we made eye contact, and there were no words needed. We hugged for such a long time, he cried, I cried. We just held each other. It had been so long, like our souls reunited and I felt as though I was holding him up and strangely, though it was his father, he was holding me up too. Before I could even say I was so sorry, he said, "I know". When he introduced me to Laura, he told her, "This is my Sarah, she took care of me." She kissed my face and told me, "thank you for loving Michael, thank you for taking care of him." It was so tender, so sweet, and full of genuine love. It is a moment in my life I will never forget.
I know that this may not mean much to most people, but I felt I had to talk about him. We take for granted that people will be around. We take for granted that there will always be another day to say, "I love you." We assume when we see someone it will not be the last time, but sometimes, it is. It seems a crime against humanity that Terry Yates was taken from us and so young. Nevertheless, at only 57 years old, Terry had lived what some people could not accomplish in 4 lifetimes. He always said, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing."
When I find myself thinking thoughts of regret around, maybe I should have called more or visited more often, I have to stop and think, Terry would be scolding me right now, he would tell me to stop. Do not live life with regrets. Do not wish for something you might have had. Terry loved us all, and with that, I will remember to live a little better today. I will hug people and mean it. I will try not to let opportunity slip through the cracks, but above all, I will not waste time that could be spent making the world a better place, time that could be used for loving people, time that could be invested in living life, on regretting things from the past. Terry would not want that for us. He is a legacy. There will always be a part of Terry in my soul. He asked a friend, to make sure that everyone takes care of his family, and of course, we will. Today I will remember that I have a little of his spirit in me too, and I will move heaven and earth for the people that I love. I will remember that life is short and that there are endless opportunities for adventure, for loving, for hugs, for kisses, for learning, for enjoying, for working, for playing, for cooking, for cleaning, eating and drinking, swimming and hiking, sleeping and resting, for dancing, watching, participating, and above all else, always there is the opportunity for a party.
As was echoed so many times in the service by his friends...LOCK AND LOAD TERRY! You will never be forgotten, for you have changed the course of all of our lives. We love you.