It was early fall a few years ago when I met Vernon. I was sitting alone at Breaking New Grounds having a coffee and he was sitting at the next table sipping his iced latte writing out cards. Never did I think that over that coffee that day I was going to make a great friend.
Over countless coffees we carried on conversations about travel, politics, music and the people around town. To me it seemed like everyone knew and loved Vern. Sitting with him at a coffee shop was like sitting at the cool kids table at lunch.
I wish we had time for one more coffee.
Vern passed away Wednesday March 3rd after a period of declining health. He had been in the hospital for a while and although I was unable to see him in person, like many of you, we often spoke on the phone. In our last conversation we joked about him coming to the gym with me. His final words to me were, “if something happens to me, will you remember me?” I told him “Of course”. I thought he was just being dramatic. He knew his time was limited. I would give anything to see his smiling face enjoying his iced latte at Cup of Joes. All I want is just one more coffee with him.
Vernon is a Portsmouth legend. When he walked down the street he said Hello to everyone. He knew everyone in every store or gallery. The last few years were difficult for him because of his neuropathy. Holding a pen was difficult, but he never missed a holiday to send out hand written cards. You knew you were somebody if you received one of the cards his sister Diana made! I have kept every card he sent me because I knew the time and energy it took him write them out. Vern would tell you that it took time for him to walk from the bus stop to Cup of Joes because he walked with a walker. Yes, he walked slow. BUT- he also stopped to talk to everyone.
Vern had a love for music and travel. We spent hours talking about it. From Jazz to Disco to Rock and Classical. If you were talking about a musician, Vern probably had the CD, maybe 2 of them! He was so happy to share his music. I once mentioned that my son was a Jazz piano player. The next day when we met for coffee he handed me an Oscar Peterson CD and told me which track was his favorite. After a few days I went to return it and he said I could keep it. He had mistakenly bought two of the same a few years apart. I asked him how many duplicate CDs he had. He laughed and said, “Too Many.”
Because of Covid restrictions his family doesn’t know when they will be able to have a grave side service for him. I will be organizing a “Coffee Party” some day later this spring where we can all get together have a coffee and share our best VERN STORIES.
His sister has asked me to extend their sincere THANKS to everyone in Portsmouth for their Love and Friendship of Vernon. I will share information as I get it. If you would like Vern’s Father’s mailing address to send a card please e-mail me. firstname.lastname@example.org.
I ask each of you today to make sure you have time to get a coffee with a friend. You never know when it’s going to be the last.
I miss you Vernon. Rest in Peace.
Gone From My Sight
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”
And that is dying…