Roland lived his life better than most of us.
Father Ken Cardinale summed up that life the best.
At Roland’s funeral last week at St. Phillip’s Church in Grafton, Mass. Fr. Cardinale imagined the moment when Roland went through the pearly gates and met God. Roland as usual had all his tools and offered to fix anything that was broken in Heaven. “No, Roland,” God said. “Your work is done now. It is time to rest.”
Resting came hard to Roland. He was “Old School” and had his cache of tools in Grafton and his summer place in Owls Head. Unlike many of us in my generation, he would rather be doing something than sitting on a deck chair watching the boats go by in Owls Head. He has enough tools left in Owls Head to start a machine shop. There is another complete set in Massachusetts. He was not one to call an electrician or carpenter when something broke. If the Red Sox were on television, he might sit on his Owls Head porch and watch, but he was always planning the next project, the next chore. He ended up climbing onto the roof to fix something even to his 80s.
He was ravaged by cancer twice. But he would not give in. His work was not done.
He was luckier than most and enjoyed retirement for 25 years after building atomic power plants in Massachusetts, then Maine. He discovered the Owls Head place after looking at half the houses in Midcoast Maine then thoroughly enjoyed the place and his excellent neighbors. When he was too ill to make it back to Maine, he talked about Trail’s End all the time.
Growing up in a French community of Grafton, he never spoke a word of English until he went to public school. He grew up in a house that was carefully built with his father and brother. He never stopped building, from homemade trailers to nuclear power plants.
Nobody enjoyed retirement more than Roland. No one enjoyed Maine more than he did. He bought a power boat, the Mirage and took great delight in ferrying passengers on fishing and pleasure trips. He enjoyed watching the Great Schooner Race aboard the Mirage. He made me take the helm once, powering through the close traffic of Camden inner harbor. I think it was just to see the look of panic on my face.
I never saw a better love story than Roland and Florence. There was never a more attentive husband. Even when he was fading and the end was near, he would ask his daughters and the nurses to look after Florence, to make a cup of tea for Florence. At the wake, the nurses told her that he was bound and determined to hold on until their 65th wedding anniversary. And he did.
By two days.
At the wake, the old friends and new nurses told Florence again and again, “He was a good man.” She knew it the best, of course, but it was still good to hear.
At the funeral, the coffin was draped with the American flag, commemorating his service in the Army in Italy. As the casket was wheeled out, the congregation sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” one of his favorites. His daughters, Susan and Linda, remembered that he often sang the song at the top of his lungs as he drove the family somewhere. Sometimes, he even got some of the words right.
Roland had a good life, a long life. He loved and was loved. He did better than most of us.
Time to rest now, Roland. Your work is done.