so when is the party over?

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Forum topic by cathyb posted 10-21-2012 06:01 AM 2342 views 1 time favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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837 posts in 3443 days

10-21-2012 06:01 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Every time that a loved one dies, I try to learn a lesson from their life. I lost Walter last week. He lived across the street from me for twenty nine years. Walter loved cars as much as I love wood. I was amazed over the years to see him buy an old sports car, completely disassemble the thing and literally kept the parts in baggies as he worked day after day to create a beautiful refinished car. He had tools that I had never seen before. He introduced me to the sandblaster to remove rust and clean up metal. He taught me finishing skills that I use to this day. He taught me to be more flexible and resourceful when approaching a build. Everyday he came over to see what I was working on and I was over at his garage watching his work too. Our work defined us and bond us together. We were kindred spirits and what a blessing that was. So when Walter bought an ‘72 MGB at age 85, it never occurred to me that he wouldn’t finish that car. A year into the work, he had a stroke that damaged his vision. He was as bull-headed as I am and tried to work around it, which frustrated him. When his doctor took away his driver’s license, it was another blow- still he kept trying to work….. then his heart began to fail and he got weaker and weaker. The car sat and was never finished. I know that was a thorn in his side. It would have been for me as well.
It is true that we never know when our days on this earth will cease, but like Walter, I just want to finish what I start. I decided that since I am in good health and statistically speaking should have a minimum of seven great years left that I need to establish an end point. I need to be the one to say, “I’m done.” I don’t want a disease or illness to make that decision for me. For the next seven years, I plan to work hard to empty my mind of all the projects that I’m itching to tackle. This all reminds me of sports stars, who choose to end the game when they are on top. I understand that logic. There’s a time for everything and some time that cycle passes.
What do you think?

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

32 replies so far

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4276 days

#1 posted 10-21-2012 06:20 AM

I am sorry to hear of your loss. I too have lost longtime friends and a recently acquired one as well!
I think it is just as important to know when to “finish up” as it is to keep dreaming as long as we can.
It seems you have learned some precious memories as well as life lessons, kudos!
May you have many more!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18389 posts in 3875 days

#2 posted 10-21-2012 06:48 AM

Sorry to hear that. I lost 3 older friends this last summer. Your question reminds me of the Bily Museum in Spillville, Iowa. The bachelor Bily brothers were farmers who carved the most magnificent mechanical clocks during the long Iowa winters. It is too bad they do not allow any pictures of them out into the world. ;-( Henry Ford offered them a million dollars for their Clock of Industry. They turned him down. They wanted to keep their work all together as a collection and left it to the town or a trust or something. Anyway, the thing I will never forget about the display was the last clock they never finished. It looked like amateurs tried to carve it. It was sort of an attitude altering experience. I’m not sure if it is better to go out on top or keep on doing what you love to do.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Boxguy's profile


2760 posts in 2466 days

#3 posted 10-21-2012 07:42 AM

Cathy, interesting topic. Death does leave larger holes than we planned in the fabric of our lives. There will be those moments when you say, “I wish I could talk to Walter about this.” And, times you wish you could show him your work…because you know Walter would understand. I miss my dad that way.

At a certain time in life we start to count down instead of up. Sounds like you have found that tipping point too. I think it was the philosopher Martin Heidegger who pointed out to me that our being, our essence is tied to a dying creature…our body. Youth doesn’t know this…I have watched them drive cars. But, we know this. Perhaps even a blooming rose knows this.

All that said, life is for the living. And to live is to strive. What would Walter have been without a project even when he was weak and blind? Better to leave something undone than to finish everything and sit waiting for death. I feel the urgency of creating while I still can, but it is also a time for me to take younger people into my shop and teach them something about woodworking and the joy of making beauty from wood with your own hands. That is one way to cheat death…as is what we craft and leave behind. I have learned that Grandchildren are a blessing too.

Just climbing staircases and lifting and picking change off the floor are enough to remind me of the ravages of time. But every day of health and energy is a blessing to be cherished…and I do…and so do you. I try to use my awareness of time as a way to make the most of what I still have…of loving that which I won’t have for long and so I love it the more. And so, up the stairs I go…but slower.

Who would have guessed that Lumber Jocks would be a place to express such ideas and use some recent photos that are really not LJ material? Thanks for the opportunity. Looking forward to your next project.

-- Big Al in IN

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44 posts in 3954 days

#4 posted 10-21-2012 08:19 AM

Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, Cathy. That’s not a bad idea that you have. But, it would never work on me. My old lady keeps putting more jobs on my list. Whoop, before you get on my case for calling my wife my OLD lady. I call her that because she calls me her OLD, FAT, BALD HEADED, STINKY HUSBAND! So, I GET TO CALL HER MY OLD LADY :). Anyways, I have my own list & she just keeps adding her ideas to my list.

View DocSavage45's profile


8721 posts in 3041 days

#5 posted 10-21-2012 08:24 AM

Guess I’m with Al the boxguy on this one. The amature or newbie says “When will it be finished?” The Master knows “It is never finished, there are just ends and beginnings”

As our clock winds down we become more aware of what is yet to be done.

I think Walter would have finished the car, and started another. Creation is part of life.


-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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Monte Pittman

30052 posts in 2537 days

#6 posted 10-21-2012 09:55 AM

I understand your point, but I also would side with the never quit side. I need to be doing something. My dad died going to get on a tractor to move hay. He was 85. I also want to work till the end.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View GrandpaLen's profile


1651 posts in 2471 days

#7 posted 10-21-2012 01:29 PM


Sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.

At times we act as if our peace and confidence is a matter of effort and self-control.
Being a good friend is the best we can hope to leave behind, the rest is just window dressing.

Best Regards. – Grandpa Len.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View ChuckV's profile


3178 posts in 3726 days

#8 posted 10-21-2012 02:46 PM

I am sorry for your loss, Cathy.

My Dad will be celebrating his 95th birthday next month. Over the years, I have watched how he has changed and adapted to the realities of his advancing age. He has never stopped learning, enjoying, doing and helping. But he has had the wisdom and foresight to move on when the time is right.

I can only hope that I will have half his wisdom in this regard.

Take care.

- Chuck

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

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4883 posts in 2711 days

#9 posted 10-21-2012 03:50 PM

Awww Cathy, I am so sorry and saddened at the same time, saddened that Walter wasn’t able to do the things he loved doing, happy that you got to share part of you life with him, my dad is just now growing into that stage at the age of 80 and it’s sad.

My blessings and prayers

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View cathyb's profile


837 posts in 3443 days

#10 posted 10-21-2012 03:58 PM

Thanks guys for your thoughtful and insightful comments. Al, you certainly make fine points, and I think that if Walter had an apprentice he wouldn’t have struggled in the end to finish the car. He could have watched as someone else did the final tuning, got those seat belts attached, replaced those nice rims, and polished it for a sale. He was so close….. It’s a fool’s game to gain knowledge and never share what you’ve learned. I thank you all for helping me see that if I take on an interested student, all my efforts and passion don’t go to waste. Maybe I could relax a little more…..

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3170 days

#11 posted 10-21-2012 09:55 PM

I, too, am sorry for your loss.
We all hate to loose anyone; especially in our circle.

I will never stop trying to work, because When you stop having goals you might as well be dead.

View cathyb's profile


837 posts in 3443 days

#12 posted 10-21-2012 11:02 PM

Michael, you are absolutely correct. I just came in from working on my rocking chair. Honestly there is nothing else that I would rather do than create furnishings from wood. Too bad my son got divorced recently because the chance for grandchildren just diminished! I’d like to pass along the couple of things that I’ve learned over the years. That will be a new mission for me…...
Have a great day.
BTW, the couldn’t agree more with your tag line!

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

View DocSavage45's profile


8721 posts in 3041 days

#13 posted 10-21-2012 11:43 PM

Wow and hawaiian apprenticeship! If you can afford the liability you might start a project program through the local high school or Jr. College?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2387 days

#14 posted 10-22-2012 02:02 AM

Hi Cathy,

I know you will miss Walter. I miss my Walter who passed this year as well. I think our Walter’s have something in common. Both of them were frustrated by their frailty. Both of them thought there was something else left to do.

There is something left to do. Our Walter’s taught us something. Our Walter’s passed an incredible piece of themselves to us. We can honor them by taking the leg up they gave use and reaching as high as we can. Stretching our fingers out and touching the stars because they gave us a boost. Our Walter’s lives are reflected as a masterpiece painting but the paint is not dry. Their masterpiece is still taking shape because they poured into us and now our lives are some of the fresh paint. For as long as you work with the lessons Walter passed on to you, his masterpiece becomes more and more priceless. If you pass on what Walter taught you… I think you can see where this is going.

I Feel for your loss but I also feel for your fortune of having such an incredible friend and mentor.

Cathy, You will never stop growing. I agree with the rest of the lumberjocks. There is no finish line. Live the rest of your life well. If there comes a day when your are too frail to do woodwork, pass your wisdom along. You might not be able to see the beauty of what you are doing all the time but I got a glimpse of your heart. I think you are creating a masterpiece.


-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View mmh's profile


3677 posts in 3921 days

#15 posted 10-22-2012 03:08 AM

A very interesting approach to life and death and very practical, as realizing that your days are numbered gives one more insight that they need to start/finish projects or goals that they wish to finish or at least be on the pathway to before leaving this world. We tend to take for granted that we have an endless time to do the things we wish to do. It’s not just the length of one’s life, but the quality of the stay and as we grow older, our body wears down and we can no longer endure or challenge what we used to be able to.

There are so many projects that I wish to start and finish and have many unfinished projects on the sidelines. I will definately need to step up the pace with my activities and also learn to appreciate the time I can spend on them today. Projects are not the only thing to focus on, but relationships should be considered with this same importance. This inquiry brings a lot of things to light that I need to address.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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