Stones and shadow pay tribute to beloved columnist, friend

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 17, 2013



It was an early-June day, the peak of hope-filled apple-blossom time in Cochrane, when I had a most memorable visit with a very special coffee companion who has been a mentor to me in mortality and immortality.

Gaydon Willis passed into the next life on Oct. 11. She was 70.

For the past seven years, the beloved Cochrane Eagle columnist shared candidly and courageously her enjoyment of life amidst her struggle with cancer and impending death. In all of this, she was sustained by the rock-solid conviction that this physical phase is just a prelude to a greater life beyond the shadows.

Our visit that spring day began mid-morning when my wife Mary Anna and I picked Gaydon up at her home and drove to Cochrane Coffee Traders. In times past, we would have taken one of the balcony tables, but not today. Instead, we took one of the tables by the fireplace, where she added her own positive glow.

Our fireside location proved to be a magnet for other admirers of this friend who refused to play the victim.

Sadly, our time for coffee came to an end all too soon and we drove Gaydon back to her home. On the way, I made two stops. First, I dropped Mary Anna off at our house, then I took Gaydon up to St. Mary’s Church to view the lush apple blossoms that adorned the walkway in front of the bell tower.

When we arrived back at Gaydon’s, she gave me a gift stunning in its simplicity: three beautiful stones she had collected over the years. One in particular bore the fossilized legacy of life not to be forgotten – just as Gaydon’s is a life not to be forgotten.

The other gift was not intentional. As I was bidding farewell, I noticed an intriguing shadow cast by some vibrant flowers along her sidewalk.

And in that shadow and reality I understood more fully what Gaydon had been so often saying in her columns about why she had no fear of death: this life is just a shadow of a new and glorious life to come.

It was certainly in that spirit that she wrote in one of her first columns on her encounter with cancer:

“I’m going to take all my fears, worries and negative thoughts and exchange them for something better. . . . I’ll exchange Fear for Hope . . . Worry for Faith . . . Anger for Joy . . .  Hate for Love . . . Anxiety for Peace.”

Thank you, my friend, for that inspiration. And now with fear, worry, anger, hate and anxiety far behind, may eternal peace be truly yours. We will miss you for now, Gaydon, but be sure to have your heavenly coffee pot ready!


© 2013 Warren Harbeck

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