The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Ralph Couey

October 16, 2011

RALPH COUEY | The only constant in life is change

— Our environment is often spoken of as nature – the sun, moon, trees, climate, all the elements of our world.

But we also exist in another atmosphere; one of people, friends, loved ones and acquaintances. They occupy our home and workplace; where we play and worship. They become a part of the very air we breathe.

In recent weeks hard times have hit home in my world.

Layoffs have been in the news a lot, an unwelcome accompaniment to hard times.

But now it’s personal.

People … friends who have been a beloved presence in my life have gone away. It’s been a sad time, this parting. But the most admirable thing is the courage with which they faced the coming change. They refused to be bitter or angry.

They talked instead about possibilities and how they believed in themselves, refusing to surrender to self-pity.

Above all, they spoke of faith in God.

“Everything happens for a reason,” one said, “and it’s up to me to discover that reason.”

When my time comes I wonder if I can be that brave, that faithful.

These remarkable people have lived in my world these many years and their departure leaves a hole in my life. The hardest day was when we had to say goodbye. Everyone put up a brave front, but the ache we felt was real.

I value friendship. I treasure my friends. I simply could not live without them. Friendship goes beyond a pleasant conversation.  I will always need those people who will take my side when I’m right, and yet care enough to call me out when I’m wrong. Their advice, counsel, and support keeps me on track.

And their effusive greetings remind me every day that I have value.

As Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan once wrote, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

My wife and I have moved a lot in our marriage, so I’m no stranger to leaving people and places behind. That I’ve done it often, however, doesn’t make it any easier. But it is in those last moments together that the barriers come down and a priceless sharing occurs.

Jean-Paul Richter wrote, “Man’s feelings are always purest and most glowing in the hour of farewell.”

Our culture is somewhat stilted when it comes to honest feelings. Thus, it is only in that last conversation that we feel freed to say out loud those things that have been tacitly understood.

But even for those who have been our foes, this is a time to perhaps heal a wound. I once knew a fellow with whom I had seemingly shared nothing but arguments. It had been a flinty relationship, at best, so I was surprised when I left my last job that he sought me out. After a moment’s hesitation, he extended his hand and said, “I’m sorry that we couldn’t have been friends.” As we shook hands, I felt thankful that our last words weren’t spoken in anger.

Gilda Radner, the vivacious and hilarious star of “Saturday Night Live,” died too early from cancer. As she neared the end of her life, she said, “I wanted a perfect ending.

Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end.

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

There’s no such thing as “Happily Ever After.” Every life endures continual challenge and change. How we face those unexpected trials in many ways defines us as individuals.  With each challenge met, with each change embraced, we grow stronger, more resilient.  

Whether we win or lose, we are better people for the experience.

On this train ride we call life, few people will ride with us for the whole trip. Most will climb aboard, ride for a while and disembark to continue their own journey. But in their absence, they leave a piece of themselves with us, just as they take a piece of us along with them.

Ralph Couey is a freelance writer living in Somerset.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Ralph Couey
  • Ralph Couey column photo.jpg RALPH COUEY | Sweet offerings sour dining experience

    We’re all familiar with the scenario. We’ve just finished a sumptuous dinner, three courses of artistry and flavor that has filled us to the point that some are surreptitiously loosening the belt. We are sure that no room remains in the stomach. We may not have to eat again for two days.
    Then a shiny silver cart is rolled up to the table. Across its top are arrayed a dozen or so plates and bowls containing things like cake, fudge, ice cream, or any one of a hundred other temptations. Suddenly, we find there is room after all.
     But not for all of us.

    January 13, 2013 1 Photo

  • ralph couey Ralph Couey | The center of ... everything

    The universe fascinates me, and has since my formative years during that breathless era known as “The Space Race.”

    October 2, 2012 1 Photo

  • Ralph Couey column photo.jpg Ralph Couey | NDIC: Memories permeate silence

    Ralph Couey of Chantilly, Va., formerly worked at the now-closed National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown. He wrote an occasional column for The Tribune-Democrat. Below is a piece he penned about the NDIC.

    August 12, 2012 1 Photo

  • Ralph Couey column photo.jpg RALPH COUEY | The only constant in life is change

    Our environment is often spoken of as nature – the sun, moon, trees, climate, all the elements of our world.
    But we also exist in another atmosphere; one of people, friends, loved ones and acquaintances.

    October 16, 2011 1 Photo

  • Ralph Couey column photo.jpg RALPH COUEY | The call of 9/11

    The 10th anniversary has passed. The first heat in the breathless race to establish a memorial for the crew and passengers of Flight 93 has been won.

    September 17, 2011 1 Photo

  • Ralph Couey column photo.jpg RALPH COUEY | The road less traveled may lead to greatness

    September 4, 2011 1 Photo

  • RALPH COUEY | An autumn of silence?

    The approach to every autumn, for as long as I can remember, brought for me a rising excitement. The arrival of the cooler breezes meant that football season had arrived.

    July 23, 2011

  • Ralph Couey column photo.jpg Speak your mind, share your heart | Ralph Couey

    It’s called glossaphobia. No, it’s not about your brand of car wax or furniture polish. It’s the technical term for the fear of public speaking.

    July 10, 2011 1 Photo

  • Ralph Couey column photo.jpg Freaking out over tiny invaders

    The other day I arrived at work to find one of my co-workers in full freak-out mode.

    June 13, 2011 1 Photo

  • Ralph Couey column photo.jpg RALPH COUEY | Couples should enter marriage with their eyes wide open

    On June 17, 1978, a brutally hot and humid Missouri day, a couple of hundred people gathered for a wedding.

    June 11, 2011 1 Photo


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads