A Last Note to Charlie Poulin

from Tom Sheehan

Written in a parking lot after final services for Charlie Poulin,
totally deaf at the end and legally blind.

 

Dear Charlie,

This will, I suppose, be the last email I’ll send to you, but it is due. I am convinced it will catch up to you in some kind of cyberspace, or, if I'm lucky, it will be waiting for you some place special. We said goodbye today and last night, the Exodus in place for you. I saw you, in repose, for the first time in sixteen or seventeen years, since the day we last we passed each other in the corridors of Raytheon, bent on our tasks, not much else in our ways. You were a most special cohort; never once in all our years did I ever hear you curse anybody, any boss, any subordinate, or knock one, or show impatience at the weakness in others. You knew what we were and what we were capable of, and if we came short, there was the art of forgiveness all of us did not have.

You carried a special grace with you, Charlie, all along the long track of those years, from the second floor of Mill 2 at old Shawsheen through our spread at West Andover. Most all of us know it, whether now in hindsight or not. I was lucky, I saw it early; special people were in our midst, you, Joe Latvis to name another, the real kind of cohorts and neighbors that made days, hours, tasks to be nothing more than pudding at best. I will not chastise anybody by not putting them in your company, but you were a special grace among us. I suspect that many of us knew that, even if we could not say it, or scream it as we ought.

We caught up with each other via email, at least three years worth, often daily.

Last night I met your family for the first time ever, knew Elaine instantly and your daughters, recognized the traits, the slim carriages, the facial grace, a kind of grace that speaks without talking. That’s your stuff, my friend. You made it happen.

I have to tell you, Charlie, you have longevity by the ton: here at your hand is eternity, long memories locked up forever with such as me and others I could share you with. And then there is the family, right down to the latest great grandchild I would guess, carried by a slip of a girl I believed to be a granddaughter ever smiling at him. Ryan is his name, from what I could hear, from a whisper. I am sure he will hear about you down the road, how he spent a few hours in tribute to his great grandfather back there in the year 2007.

From many sources, nation-wide and world wide (all the way over to friend Guillaume in Paris), are echoed your observations and imparted justice about the Red Sox, Red Sox management, Red Sox Nation itself, so acute, so true to fact, that many think you had a special wand and a special ear for inside stuff. Friend John (92, 85 years a fan), who specializes in studying their faces in the dugout when they are winning or losing, was keenly aware of your intuitions. He has appraised you to the baseball heavens on many occasions.

But that’s all play stuff, as you and I agreed on so many occasions. Here’s the important stuff: a game is a game, and hunger and wretchedness are facts of life that kill us internally when we see it. On my way to see you off today, after being lost for a bit in your city of Haverhill, I saw a bag lady cross the street in front of me while I was at a red light, her feet wrapped three-fold by tape and heavy socks, wearing extra coats and a final raiment of a plastic wrap against the deadly winter winds. She ripped at me, those feet plodding on the streets of the city, passersby sort of ignoring her wandering with a plastic bag half filled with returnable containers. Oh, she would have slain you, Charlie, with her plight, and before I could move, hand off a five dollar bill, she was gone and the horns of cars behind me were urging me to move on, past her pain, past her winter, past her hunger, past some need I had no other idea of, as I sought your departure place.

But I brought her to your final services with me and on the way back to my home, as you were flying out under sunlight, moonlight, starlight, through ethers and the taste of forever, I said prayers for her in your name. Bless her this night, Charlie, whatever it brings her, but not the cold, not the hunger, perhaps only a moment for a prayer for you.

I have to say it now, that I believe transformation is at hand. In one fell swoop it comes, came. I could feel it at some place in the last ceremony we would ever share, as far as I know as a mortal (and some familiar faces there). I know you are outbound, over water, through the light of planets and comets and a momentary sense of darkness, as you make that final move. The glorious freedom I can feel. You are out there, Charlie, loose, free, on the rise, above water and through air and all that tries to catch at us. And all those awful appendages and accoutrements you wore or carried by medical dictate have been discharged, the pain is gone, as well as the quiet agonies that you bore silently, that held on so long into your slow passing.

Now comes the great music, my friend Charlie, the true music, the music of the heavenly sphere. Once again you can hear Elaine’s voice, and the voices of your children at song and poem and story, the magical words rising from their being taught the awareness you bestowed on them. You can hear their songs at the sweetest echo of all, the new hearing that comes back to you, and the chants and the hymns that moved your soul all its days.

Just think of it, Charlie, all like you said, about being lucky. You’re about one of the luckiest guys from Raytheon I know. It really is a bon voyage, mon amie.

Be swift to Him.

Your friend,

Tom

 

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