As I was going through the mail yesterday I saw that one of our Christmas cards had been returned. There was a handwritten note with an arrow pointing to our return address that said, “Deceased – return to sender,” along with the standard USPS yellow label, “ATTEMPTED – NOT KNOWN – UNABLE TO FORWARD – RETURN TO SENDER.”
The card was for Roger, whom I had known since my Oklahoma City days in the 1980’s. We were both members of the First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City, and we were both part of the Sunday evening Personal Growth Group, which I later coordinated. Roger was a postal service employee who chose to retire early to avoid the stress of the system. The tradeoff was that he had to lead a highly frugal lifestyle to make ends meet, getting about on a motorcycle rather than owning a car and renting a modest place to live. The upside was that he spent his days living the life He wanted to live. He borrowed and read books from the library, sat in coffee shops (the old-fashioned kind, not where they served lattes and cappuccino) debating matters of import with friends, watched PBS, and hung out at the Unitarian church. Not a bad life, I have to say. Everyone liked Roger. You can see why.
After Ruth and I moved to the Bay Area in 1985, I kept in touch with the Unitarian church in Oklahoma City, and for a while they listed me in their directory as an out-of-area member. It was by that means that Roger found me and started sending me his annual Solstice letter. (He was an agnostic or atheist – I think the former, but I really don’t recall.) I reciprocated with my whatever-I-was-sending-out-that-year. Roger’s frugality paid off and he was eventually able to buy a house and a small car, something along the lines of a Honda Civic. While I had gone through seven addresses in the intervening years, Roger had two.
Roger got up to speed, fairly easily it seemed, on the Internet and email, and I would occasionally get his musings that way rather than by postal mail. He set up a Facebook account and managed to upload a photo of himself, but beyond that never really got the hang of FB. When I checked yesterday his FB account was gone.
Having not heard from Roger for a while I was saddened but not terribly surprised to see our Christmas card returned. Indeed, I had a premonition along those lines when we were doing them. But Roger lives on. There is an element of the population in Oklahoma City who will keep his memory alive, as will I.
Rest in peace, Roger, and as now an Episcopalian, I will add, even if it doesn’t fit your theology, rise in glory.