Friday, January 2, 2009

First You Cry ...

I think this is about my favorite photo of my friend Cecil Talley, taken a few years ago when he was still having his fishing adventures. Since that shot was taken, his world gradually closed in as his body began its relentless process of breakdown.

Not that mere physical problems ever stopped Cees from enjoying life or dampened his irrepressible sense of humor. He never got bitter, never wasted time feeling sorry for himself, never rationed his great generosity of spirit. And his family and friends have been blessed because he has been so utterly indomitable.

Back in 1980, Cees sold a short story to the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Here's what they said, by way of introduction ...

This is the 545th "first story" to be published by Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine ... Once again we should all be mightily encouraged by a first appearance in print. The author, Cecil Talley, was sixty-three when he submitted "The Farmer in the Well" -- take heart, all you beginners!

Mr. Talley thinks his wife ("who has endured me for forty-two years"), his two sons, and his five granddaughters will get a thrill out of seeing "The Farmer in the Well" in EQMM. They should indeed! Mr. Talley is "an old sign painter who never made it past the eighth grade." We share their thrill -- as we do with all our new writers, old and young...

Well, that was 28 years ago, and Cees never stopped writing ... not his stories and not his nearly daily e-mail communication with friends. Between his love of wordsmithing, his love of fishing and his delight with the Internet, he kept us entertained with tales of seemingly endless fishing mishaps. The boat wouldn't unload when he got to the lake. Or it would but the weather turned bad. Or he couldn't find a fishing partner when the weather was good. Or the motor went gunnybag on him so he had to get a new one. And the "good deal" turned out to be a dud. And on and on and, as Cees would always query, "Now, would a Texan lie?"

Nor did he ever stop learning new things. He started fiddling with PhotoShop and was constantly sharing experiments and projects that showed off his boundless curiosity and, often, his self-deprecating sense of humor. I still grin when I look at a photo he sent me where he'd imposed his own face over that of a big old longhorn bull. Well, he was a Texan. That explains a lot. (Insert smile.)

Then, a few months ago, he simply couldn't sit at the computer any longer. At that point, his son Lou did more than care for his father's physical well-being. He served as able go-between, printing off e-mail messages from friends so Cees could read them, and keeping us informed about how things were going.

Tonight, sadly, Lou had to tell us Cees died quietly in his sleep.

Well, first you cry. Then you start remembering all the good stuff. The throat still aches and the eyes still leak but the smiles keep coming ... and get stronger. And you can picture Cees strolling up to the Pearly Gates and giving St. Peter a friendly Texas howdy and then he says, "How's the fishing?"

Another Texan friend, Jeri, said it best: "I pray that our Cees now has a boat with a motor that always runs and a lake with an endless supply of fish. And I *know* that now he has a Buddy who loves to fish as much as he did."

12 comments:

Wendy said...

Dee, I hope your memories do, indeed, bring you comfort as you mourn your friend.

John Bailey said...

A wonderful tribute, Dee. I echo Wendy's message. Chin up, chicken.

kate et jim said...

Yes, a lovely tribute to your friend, Dee.

And I also, can only echo what Wendy and John have written.

It's very hard to lose a friend, as we not only mourn them, but we mourn our own loss as well.

bb said...

I remember I started to read the book you had. He's happy fishing with the ultimate fisher of men. :-)

Julie said...

A beautiful tribute to our dear friend, Dee. You done him good.

Jen said...

Thank you for this beautiful tribute. It means the world to me in this sad time.
Gratefully, Jennifer Hopps
(Cecil's Granddaughter)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wonderful words about my Grandpa. I tried to read it aloud to my son (Cecil's great grandson) and couldn't get past his asking St. Peter how the fishing is in heaven before choking up. I would like to add that when he isn't fishing in heaven, he is going to be playing checkers with his brother Norman and eating cornbread and biscuits. We are all going to miss him so much.

Cheryl Talley Kremer

Ian Kremer said...

Thank you for this. While he was family, it is always great to hear how his circle of friends affected him, and in turn us.

It makes me happy that he kept his mind until the end. I was able to see him, briefly, a few days before he passed and he was still telling jokes to us all. He was a great guy. Commenting to us how nice everyone was treating him.

Thank you for one more insight into my great Grandfather.

Ian Kremer
(Cecil's great grandson)

Maggie said...

Thanks so much for sharing this indomitable person with us. Humor is one of the best gifts we all have, and how delightful that he was able to share this right up to the last.

jennie wood said...

Thank you for sharing your tribute. I pray peace and comforting memories for the family and friends that will be missing Cecil.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss as well as that of Cecil's family. My prayers are with you and them.

~ Sil in Corea said...

Cees was a great man! He sure warmed a lot of hearts down here, and he's giving joy (and humor) now, I'll wager. Thank you for the memories, Dee!

Hugs from Corea,
~ Sil