Tag Archives: calling hours

Arthur Tsetsilas

Arthur Tsetsilas

Profile Image

Arthur Tsetsilas, I had him as a coach in baseball, playing alongside his son, Tim.

Tonight, I made the short drive to Londonderry, NH. I drove through familiar neighborhoods on my way to the funeral home. Some of the roads I drove on, weren’t even there when I was growing up in Londonderry. Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with this funeral home. This past April, I stood in the same room that I was in tonight, in front of the gathering, in tears, remembering my Dad.

This evening as I stood among the large crowd of people inside that very room, I listened as my friend Tim, remembered his Dad. I reverently watched as “Taps” was played and the American Flag was presented. I wiped away a few tears as Tim mentioned so many of the things, that will “never be” again, as his Dad is gone. I got a lump in my throat as I remembered many of my own interactions with Mr. Tsetsilas and his family. The room was full, and overflowing. The line was long, and wound down the driveway outside. Cars lined Mammoth Road across the road from the high school that so many of us attended decades, yes, decades ago.

I talked to my Mom on the phone during part of my drive to Londonderry. I had hoped my wife could join me, but we had 3 or 4 places to be all at the same time. I told my wife, and my Mom, how I don’t like going to these things. Not because of time, or respect, or any other thing, except for one thing. When I walk into those rooms, I know that there is someone, or maybe many someones, who are dealing with perhaps the toughest times of their entire life in those moments. This is where I pray a little more, I ask for the right words, along with extra love and compassion. I have written too many times on this subject, it seems. Here are some words that I have shared before, in times like these…”Please don’t think that this is over when the news stops running or the stories stop circulating. You and I may be a part of the plan. Anyone of us could be instrumental. Our words, our actions, just might be the right thing at the right time for the one who needs that spoken word or the example they were looking for. Really it’s always supposed to be that way. We are human, and our best moments aren’t all of our moments. Yet the more we think our moments are our best, the more they will be. And the moment we decide that we need to be our best might just be the moment that God’s plan includes us to be the message for someone needing to see that something that helps them cope and overcome.

As I stood in a crowd, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds, I looked for someone I recognized, someone I knew. There had to be many but I wasn’t sure where the line was, or if there was a line at all. Then, Rich, Russ, Stephanie, Sean, Tim, and Peter were all around me, and the line I sought, became a little less important for a moment. While I was still in virtually the same spot that I landed, upon clearing the front door, the service started. We all stood and listened to the tribute(s) for the man, whose passing had brought us together this February evening.

I listened closely, and in the moments following, when folks who had already been through the line, began to file outside, I picked up the trail of the line again. I watched a slide show, that was playing on a screen along the line, of pictures from Arthur’s life. I went through the line with Peter, who, thankfully, kept me company while I scanned the crowds for people I knew but didn’t necessarily recognize. I saw Chris, Becky, Tom, Wayne, Todd, Dave, Mike, Jonesy, and more. I spoke with almost every one of these folks mentioned, and more. There were two women from the Class of 89 in line behind me, who knew my brothers, and since I was Class of 85, I referred to myself as the ancient oldest brother.

I thought about Londonderry, this little town when I moved into town in 1972, that is so much bigger now. Imagine a time when we were all young, and in this town, that none of us picked, where we all grew up. Our parents were there for a myriad of reasons, but to us, this is where, and with whom we lived, and so our roots were cultivated. We went to classes together. We learned together. We overcame hurdles, nuances, and quirks together as we matured and grew. We had fun together. We competed together. We saw highs and lows together. We watched as one class, and the next, and so on, graduated and went their separate ways. For many of those kids, the names I mentioned, I hadn’t seen them since those days. Still I would call them my friends because I don’t see why years removed should have changed that.

See back in the day, as it were, any of us, if not all of us, could have easily run into each other on any day of school. We could have just as easily gathered in the yard at the Arthur Tsetsilas residence in South Londonderry, to play basketball, grill some burgers, and swim in the pool. All of us could have been present at a gymnastics meet (that’s for you Steph), a soccer game, a football game, a basketball game, or even on the baseball diamond. Most all of this group could have been at the rec hall playing basketball or volleyball at any given time as well. We all followed each other, mostly because we all wore Londonderry on our uniforms, but in another way, because we were among the individuals that were all better for having been together. And somehow tonight, it felt like we were all a little better for being in that room together, again. Maybe it was just me.

If my memory is what it used to be, then I have forgotten. Arthur Tsetsilas coached me for years, while I played Babe Ruth Baseball. I was an unobservant teen, living and loving the days of my youth. I wish I remembered more personal stories about Arthur, Tim and Shawn’s Dad. What I do remember is that we were all perfectly attentive, mild-mannered, and wonderfully humble, quiet kids that were a breeze to work with. Please don’t correct me if I am wrong. Honestly though, having coached for many years, and having been a father now for 25 years, I grew to respect Mr. Tsetsilas even more. Tonight, I wanted to show that respect, and to support the Tsetsilas family.

I wrote on the online guest book that Mr. Tsetsilas was a “Popeye-esque” figure in my mind. To me, that’s a good thing. Mr. Tsetsilas was athletic, and he was strong. He mumbled some, and if you were close enough, and quick enough, to catch his commentary, he was hilarious. Maybe the biggest feather I would place in his cap, would be his commitment to volunteerism, because it was second to none. His work ethic knew no boundaries, and that included everything he put himself into. I don’t remember struggles, difficulties, or drama with his teams, because Mr. Tsetsilas made everything easy for us, seamless. We had the luxury of being exactly what we were best at, being kids. Tim or Shawn might correct me on this, or they may concur, but to me, Mr. Tsetsilas had mastered a skill that I have tried to master myself. He was serious enough to do an honest day’s work, while leading by example, making friends for life out of sheer respect, and raised a family to be adults that have no excuses, all while never fully ceasing to be a kid. That, to me, is the secret that Mr. Tsetsilas taught all of us, and we all benefited by him living that way.

Some 600 people showed up tonight, I heard. And countless others have been positively been impacted by the life of Mr. Arthur Tsetsilas. As we settle in, before we drift to sleep the next time, may we pray for Tim and Shawn, and the entire Tsetsilas family. To my generation, may we remember the days where “Londonderry” across our chest was enough that none of us would leave a teammate behind, and we’d run through a wall if we had to. So may we also be present for Tim and Shawn, and family as reality continues to press to the forefront. These times can be difficult, numbing, and seem completely hopeless, but there is light, there is always light. The definition of darkness goes something like this: the partial or total absence of light. Let us be that light should they need it.

Folks, I am sure I left some people out, or just flat didn’t recognize you. For that, I apologize. I am so happy that I was able to see so many people from another time in life. It meant a lot to me. I am even more pleased that we were all there for the Tsetsilas family. Rest in Peace Arthur. You will be missed. You will be remembered.

Forever Rest In Peace

Today we come together to remember one of us, one held so dear.

I implore you to ensure that her sweet, smiling spirit ne’er disappear.

Continue reading

The Hug

May 20, 2013

Maybe it’s just me, but while I was growing up, I guess I never really gave any thought to the fact that my heroes and I would ever be adults at the same time. Of course, back then, I didn’t exactly think of my role models or my relatives as heroes either. Quite honestly, I didn’t understand myself or my truest values very well either. I guess there are a couple of points I should get to. One, in my eyes, I’m still just a kid compared to my parents, and to my aunts and uncles. Two, many of these people are, or were, my heroes.

I wrote these words while lying in a hall bed at my mother’s double cousin’s house. I was in town for the calling hours and funeral of my Aunt Janette. After driving six hours, enjoying dinner with family, going to the calling hours and visiting with family, I laid down to crash. But before sleep found me, I reached for these words and recorded them, raw and real.

Tonight, I saw pictures that brought me back to another time, visually, and ultimately in my mind I was taken back to a whole different era. Also tonight, one of my, bigger than life, heroes was standing right in front of me. I was waiting in line to visit with him, and his family, during calling hours for my Aunt Janette, his wife of 45 years, who had passed away three days prior. And even though I would put my Uncle Lloyd in the “hugs aren’t absolutely necessary, a handshake will do” category, I had long since decided that I was going to give him a big, warm hug upon my chance to be face to face with him. A big hug, that’s exactly what I was going to do. You might say, okay, big deal. Or maybe you’d even ask why a hug at all. I’ll explain. I wanted to hug my Uncle Lloyd and hold him for a moment, or two, to let him know how much he and Aunt Janette meant and always will mean to me. I wanted to hug him because here stood this man, no longer with his best friend at his side, but still greeting all who approached him in the best way he knew how, as his wife would also have done. I wanted to hug him because I love him. I wanted to hug him because I was hoping the genuine action itself would speak the volumes that my tear-soaked face, and emotionally overwhelmed, cracking, voice was not going to be able to get the words out. I wanted to hug him because he looked like he needed one, and I felt I did too. I wanted to hug him out of pure respect. I wanted to hug him because, while a handshake with a man of his caliber still means an awful lot, a hug would be unforgettable. I wanted to hug him in hopes that in some out-of-this-world way I could give him strength, support, encouragement, energy, stability, and reinforcement during such a difficult time. So, finally, I faced him, just he and I, suddenly alone in this little sliver of space, among the many in that sanctuary, and I gave my Uncle Lloyd a big hug. He said some things to me that I hope I never forget, we cried, and my voice worked just as poorly as I thought it would.

Pictures I saw at the front of the church, along the entrance to the sanctuary, and out in the hall took me down my own memory lane. I saw again, the beauty of my aunt and how it was always present where ever she was. I also saw the fit, strong, fearless, young man who my uncle was as I first remember him. Present too in those pictures, in a person who was so comfortable in his own skin, was the gleam of youthful, good-natured, mischievousness in his eyes. There’s more to the memories and visions that swirl through my mind when I think on those times, those days, those visits, and those interactions with versions of these same people before me tonight, but I will save them for another time. In the church, before the masses that gathered to share memories, condolences, and prayers, the gleam was elsewhere, and the beauty was in a better place. So, I just tucked those memories away and carried on with the evening. I visited. I cried. I hugged family. I heard stories. I sat, seeking the comfort found in numbers, among my aunts, my cousins, my second-double cousins, and the others somehow related but beyond my scope of properly defining their relations with appropriate lineage terminology.

May 22, 2013

Fast-forwarding through several hours, after sleep, after breakfast, after a visit to the farmlands, after the service, and even after the committal, I was standing out behind The People’s Church next to the burial plot as the Pastor finished the proceedings in prayer. I had family all around me, an aunt on my left arm, and aunt on my right arm, and my mother and my uncle directly in front of me. The prayer ended and I lifted my bowed head and opened my watery eyes. I looked around and for a second or two those who had gathered did not move. Silence prevailed and movement was scarce. Then, as if put in motion by something greater than himself, my Uncle Lloyd turned and just started greeting the dozens of family members and friends who had gathered throughout the little cemetery. He went to every single person. I stood among my aunts, cousins, and second-double cousins, and quietly, I waited.

Finally, my Uncle Lloyd approached me. We stood face-to-face on the soft, uneven, grass of the rain-soaked hillside. Again, every one else seemed to disappear and I heard no other sounds. Standing before me was this man who I revered more than he knows. Actually, maybe only my mother would have an idea as to how much he means to me. This day, there was no doubt, and we both welcomed the opportunity to share a manly hug. I said the only words I could say before emotions rendered my voice-box useless, “I love you.” He hugged me and said a few words to me that I will hold to myself. Simple words, simply stated, a few times, and they meant more to me than all the words I could ever write in description of knowing him for my entire life, right through to that moment. We parted and he made his way up the gradual slope toward the church and another gathering that I will also, some day describe. For now, I will just sit and treasure these moments too. Again, I bow my head and say a prayer. A prayer for him, a prayer for me, and a memory made between a couple of hugs. Amen.