Things That Make Life Worth Living

by on October 2, 2009 · 17 comments

in From the Soul, Health

Ernie McCray toast-ed-sm

Trying to proceed with life after losing my Nancy has been like climbing out of a steep wet muddy hole wearing slippery shoes. What did I ever do to the universe to have to sing these blues?

But, as I’ve always done to keep from going insane, I’ve been writing to ease my pain. Not long ago I took part in an exercise at a writers workshop wherein we put down our thoughts about: “Things That Make Life Worth Living.”

My mind sought out the past and, of all the things behind me, my thinking cap immediately came up with the Lone Ranger asking Tonto “What should we do?” as they were surrounded by an army of red men, to which Tonto says: “What we, white man.” Well jokes are a joy and make life worth living.

Then Miles Davis, the “Prince of Darkness,” appears dressed to kill in a red silk shirt that gives off a dull yet rich glow and black trousers with the creases just right, shoes fitting right in, and he puts his horn to his lips and sweet and sour soulful notes burst softly and purely into the air, dripping funk and soul everywhere, emitting mild spine tingling sensations that lift and soothe one’s spirit. Miles, Miles, Miles. Life sure was worth living when that fellow got through making your world feel mellow.

And who comes along next in my memory? Oscar Robertson, the Big O, bringing the ball up the floor, looking one way, shoveling a pass the other way, and I’m scoring an easy basket with no idea how the ball made it to my hands. Life was looking pretty doggone good in that moment in time.

And in no time we were off to another writing exercise. Afterwards, however, when I got home, I continued with the theme of life affirming things, struggling to shed my down in the dump frame of mind. But, sure enough, almost as soon as I sat at my iMac to add to what I had written earlier about yummy butterscotch milkshakes at the DQ, circa 1952, my grief came crashing through as I had, in my mind, in that moment, for who knows why, subtracted five years from 1952, leading me to 1947, the year Nancy was born. And then I was rhyming born with forlorn and torn and mourn, so helplessly caught up in a heavy dark emotional storm.

But after a few shudders and tears I got back to writing, determined to stay focused, bent on exploring more of what rocks my boat in life, and also making a concentrated effort not to venture back in time.

I asked myself isn’t there something now that makes my life worth living and I had to admit that there are so many things that make my being shine: having lunch and laughing every month or so with some old fellow retired African American principal colleagues of mine who, like me, are so happy that we’ve served our time; enjoying good books and movies and plays; working with children in creative ways; sunsets at Sunset Cliff; walks along the mighty Pacific, listening to the sometimes pounding, sometimes gentle waves, at the Cove, the shores, OB, PB, MB, IB…

Then our kids came to mind, Nancy’s and mine. I thought about how my malaprops (I guess that’s what they are) make them laugh all the time like on 9-11 when I was ranting and raving about Osama lin Baden. And like recently when I was saying “I don’t think Rosie McConnell would have worked out on the Price is Right.” They got a good chuckle but they agreed that as the host she would have been cast way against type. When I hang out with them everything seems right.

Watching them play coed softball on Sundays is one of my life’s delights. I will forever remember Carlos, playing shortstop, one Sunday, backhanding a sharply hit ball and making a perfect throw to Nyla at first and she fires to Tawny at home. Double play. McCray to McCray to McCray. Now that made my day.

For my children and me I make a toast to our beloved. To her I say: Sweet precious woman of mine, you made life worth living for us for a long long time. Out of our love for you, and in your memory and honor, baby, we’ll make it worth living again and I don’t mean maybe. Cheers, my dear!

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Virginia Franco October 2, 2009 at 12:44 am

Hey Ernie,

You brought back my own memories of loss. I sure wish I would have had you on my shoulder guiding me along, oh, so long ago … I was all of 23 years of age; my daughter, only 4 months old. Your positive outlook simply amazes me. you can write about it!

You are truly blessed to have experienced such a great, 25 year romance; most likely, people have told you so many times over – a truly gifted match. By extension, you simply exude L-O-V-E to others around you.

An unabashed fan waiting for your next post,



Ernie McCray October 2, 2009 at 11:08 am

Hi Virginia:
If it wasn’t for writing I don’t know if I would have made it in this life. As a kid I had to write to withstand Jim Crow whenever I found myself caught up in one of his hateful throes. To the girls I would write notes when I couldn’t express my little puppy love any other way. If school got a bit boring I’d write the day away. Now I can’t wait to write my next post because I could never ignore the “unabashed” (smile).


DON AND GINNY SMITY ( I.B.) October 2, 2009 at 9:22 am

Ginny and I certainly want to express our feelings for your loss as well as to everyone that knew Nancy. I have been in conversation with you previously, informed you that you were one of my heros in high school as well as the U of A. I was at that game when you scored the record that still stands. I think it was the Lobos. We talked about the 50th reunion and some of the disappointments there. We had the wonderful experience of being with you and Nancy at our church in IB to celebrate the life of Jim Boyd. We enjoyed our 70th birthday Tucson High get together with you and Nancy along with all of those who attended. Your expressions of your loss and coping with all that comes at this tragic loss has fortified my belief that Ernie was and is the man now. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family and will remain as you move forward through this part of your life that is so difficult. May Gods blessing be with you Ernie.


Ernie McCray October 2, 2009 at 10:55 am

Hey, I’m taking this thing on like a Tucson High Badger. Trying to “Bear Down” like the old Wildcat days at the U of A. I feel you guy’s love all the way. And I’m sending that love back to you in a big Old Pueblo way. Reading your words has made my day.
Love you both!
Easy Ernie McCray


jon October 2, 2009 at 11:08 am

As always, I thouroughly enjoy reading your words Ernie. Thank you,


Ernie McCray October 2, 2009 at 1:16 pm

De nada y: Thank you.


Randy October 2, 2009 at 11:10 am

Ernie, we met at Jill Badonsky’s workshop on Saturday. You impressed me then and no less now with your words. I cried, with you, I think, as I read them. And glowed, too, because that’s what your words do to me.


Ernie McCray October 3, 2009 at 10:48 am

Ain’t words beautiful, wonderful,useful? I found yours, the other day, so playful, so what I need these days.


PSD October 3, 2009 at 1:25 am

Ernie, your words are beautiful, a fitting tribute. So powerful I mourn for your loss and at the same time feel the joys your life has brought you. I wish you nothing but the best in your time amongst us and thank you for your contributions, and wish Nancy the best in whatever awaits us all.


Ernie McCray October 3, 2009 at 10:53 am

I have wished Nancy the best in whatever awaits us all but I have pointed out to her: don’t expect me any time soon. She says she can wait. And as much as I miss her, I hope she has a long wait but we’ll waste no time making up for time lost. Thanks for your comforting words.


Dave Gilbert October 3, 2009 at 11:28 am

Thanks for sharing Ernie. Reading your prose lets me feel both the pain & the joy of somebody loving someone with every strand of their being. It also reminds me of the last line from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, In Memoriam 27, and his immortal words, “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.


Ernie McCray October 3, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Tis the truth that be told.


Vesna Vukov "Coach V" October 4, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Dear Ernie,
I enjoyed reading this beautiful piece and also viewing the photo. How nice to see your/our beautiful Nancy in such a joyful moment.
You may remember that I once told Nancy of a vegan store where they carried lots of non-leather shoes, etc. I wanted to share with you that a day after learning of her passing, I just happened to be in that neighborhood and decided to visit the store in remembrance of her. I went in and immersed myself in thoughts of her – Oh, here’s a shirt with vegie slogans she would have liked, and Oh, would she have liked these shoes?, and Wow, it was so great to know a woman was so passionate about her beliefs! As I was doing this, I became aware that a beautiful song was playing on the radio so I tuned into the lyrics. At the exact moment I tuned in, the lyrics were, ” and I know that you will shine your love down on me from heaven”. I burst into tears, because Nancy left us too soon, but also in gratitude for having this brief contact with her. And I do not doubt that she acknowledged me. I walked around all day knowing I had been touched by an angel.
Ernie, know that Nancy is near. I’m sure she is pleased to see you finding the things that make life worth living.


Ernie McCray October 6, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Hey, Coach V, thanks for your beautiful memories and, yeah, I know Nancy wants me to keep at it and so I will. But, as we used to say in my circles when I was growing up: “It be’s hard.”


john October 9, 2009 at 5:15 am

It’s thought by many that a part of what we have as our spirit, and how it endures as eternal life, is in the way we touched others who remain among the living and think fondly of us after we’re gone.
I think your experience is a good example of that, I didn’t know Nancy but your account has me, a grown man, somewhat misty eyed- over someone I’ve never even met.


Carlos B.M. McCray October 5, 2009 at 9:16 pm

To a powerful woman, mother o mine
I too toast to you for the rest of time
that I am on this earth living as an agent of change
just like you, walking the walk not looking for fame
You’ve taught me much, so much, in 27 years
that I can live my life with little fear
for I still feel unwaveringly all of your giving
Thanks, o mother, for helping to make my life worth living.


Ernie McCray October 6, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Que bueno, mijo.


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