How many of your remember The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!”? The lyrics go like this:

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

Recently it’s been a season of loss for me. I guess it is a natural part of the aging process. You begin to lose your friends and relatives as the years pass.

The last couple of years it’s been especially hard on me. I’ve lost a couple of close former colleagues, a cousin who was like a brother, and most recently my sister.

My sister Helen recently passed after a 20-year battle with breast cancer. She is the first sibling to go. My family is close, so now that my sister has passed there is a huge void. It is a wake-up call that your time too is limited.

When we were kids, we fought often. I feel a little guilty that both my brother Teddy and I used to torment her. It was probably more me; she had a strong will and that always caused conflict between the two of us. Even though we fought often we also were both quick to forgive and had short memories of why we fought.

What I always admired about my sis was her determination to live life on her own terms. She had three different careers. She was first a math teacher, second a college librarian, and third a lawyer with a distinguished career at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Cousin Warren walking his paper route.

My dad once said she should have been born a boy! My mom was proud but wanted her to marry and have kids. Well, she did finally marry and did raise an accomplished and confident daughter!

Although she could have made more money going corporate, throughout her life she was an advocate for social justice and always fought for the underdog. Helen did a brief stint working as an advocate for farmworkers in Salinas. She was respected by her colleagues for her integrity.

Helen at daughter Cassandra’s wedding.

My cousin Warren also passed earlier this year. We both turned 70 last year. He unfortunately contracted RSV and let it go too long before seeking medical help. He left us too soon.

Warren and I basically grew up together; our fathers were distant cousins. We went to the same schools, Redding Elementary and Lowell High School. He was my roommate at Berkeley. In a sense we were like brothers!

We shared an idyllic childhood. We raced slot cars on a track he built in the basement of his house. We would race for hours. In our teens we developed an interest in photography so we had a darkroom in the same basement. His basement was also the site of many games, especially card games after we finished our paper routes.

He was a nerdy techie who also had a 30-plus-year career at Hewlett-Packard (HP) as a programmer. He always had the latest toys, whether it was the first VCR or the latest stereo equipment.

He also built electronic kits. I will treasure the electronic timer he build for our darkroom, which is now in my possession!

We too also fought. On the playground I remember a fist fight or two. Cousin Warren was a stubborn guy. He never let me win an argument or concede I had a valid viewpoint.

Later in life he became very conservative and was a MAGA man. We would have phone calls with political themes that lasted past midnight. I always had great pleasure in pushing his buttons with some “progressive viewpoint.” It was part of the game we played!

Speaking of games, the one thing that will always stick in my craw was the fact that I could never beat him in tennis. In our teen years we would play tennis most Sunday mornings after we finished our paper routes. He would always beat me! He was a backboard, and I always tried to hit the winner. Our matches reflected our life views!

Abe family and friends’ reunion in the late ’80s.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” In my youth I had little appreciation of how limited our time is on this Earth is. In fact, I may have wasted a lot time in my youth. Appreciating the moment now is so important. At our age we really don’t know what tomorrow brings.

I remember a toast at a gathering of my in-laws’ friends in a Carpinteria reunion years ago. Many of these friends were from college, camp, and the military. One of the women said it was great to gather and relive old times because we don’t know who will not be with us the next time.

A few months later that woman suffered a massive stroke and passed.

The passing of Helen and Warren is a reminder that my time is limited. These are two people that I will miss arguing with in 2023. My life journey will be a little sadder now that Helen and Warren are no longer a part of it, but I am blessed to have had them both in my life!

There is a saying that bad things happen in threes. On the heels of Helen’s and Warren’s passing, I was saddened to read in The Rafu that Wimpy Hiroto had passed. I was a big fan of his column! The losses continue… but on a happier note, I’m expecting my first grandchild at the end of July — turn, turn, turn!


Bill Yee is a retired Alhambra High School history teacher. He can be reached at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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