Ralph and Kai

Photograph taken by on Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ralph L. Hartley
June 10, 1958 – June 14, 2017

Ralph and Kai

Ralph and Kai

Life can be hard and I’m not really sure what to say about this picture. As I get older I find, not surprisingly, I suppose, that there are fewer and fewer people that have known me all my life. My parents, of course, knew me when I was first born. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles, basically, as well. But my dad is gone and so are my grandparents and many of my aunts and uncles. And now my older brother, Ralph. He was only 18 months old when I was born, but he has been there since my beginning and I have known him my entire life. Being so close together in age, we did a lot of things together, especially as kids. We fought, of course, but we played, as well. The family traveled a bunch, going out west and back a few times when we were young. Then in 1971 we moved to England, camping through much of Europe on the way. Ralph and I went to the Cambridge Grammar School for Boys that year. We explored castles and designed our own. We took another trip out west when Ralph and I were in high school, hiking down the Grand Canyon. We went to Greece for eight weeks in 1981, camping almost the whole time. Ralph only stayed for half of that but it was a really good time (and boy, did he have hair then!).

It was about that time that he met Tsai-Hong. They were married in 1982 and have had a wonderful marriage and two amazing children, now both married. In December of last year their grandson Kai was born. Late in 2015 it was clear that Ralph was ill. In January, 2016 he was diagnosed with lymphoma. In January of this year he had a bone marrow transplant and although the transplant was successful, the cancer was still there. They decided to do some traveling and went on a cruise in the Galapagos and another in southeast Alaska. Ralph was an avid and experienced caver and he took five of us into a ‘starter cave’ in West Virginia a few short weeks ago (see Saturday, May 06, 2017).

We all knew it was only a matter of time before he was gone but it came much more quickly than any of us expected. My mom called me early this afternoon to say that Ralph’s breathing had become labored and that I should come over. He was able to hold his precious grandson one last time before he left us, and that was so sweet.

We disagreed on many things and we fought from time to time (sometimes, particularly as kids, physically). But Ralph was the first friend I had and for most of my early life, my best friend. Some of the memories we shared were shared by no one else. I’m amazed by how rich I am in terms of friends and family. Richer than I could ever possibly expect or deserve. But, to quote something I read once, “the cultural memory of our little family has been dealt a terrible blow…. In what seems like the blink of an eye, whole volumes of institutional memory have simply vanished. And that is a terribly lonely thought, that no amount of company and condolence can ease or erase.”

UPDATE: I’ve fixed a few typos, including two years, which were wrong.

14 Responses to Ralph and Kai

  1. Ron Hammersley

    Thank you, Henry. Beautiful sharing. I look forward to seeing Cathy and you soon.
    God bless you, your Mom, and all of the Hartleys! In Jesus, Ron

  2. Bob Prentiss

    Henry, I am so sorry for your loss. I have told my two children for years that their relationship would very likely be the longest relationship in their lives here on Earth so they should work at making it a good one. It sounds like you and Ralph did just that. Blessings on you and your family.

  3. Susan Bever

    Oh Hnery, my sympathy to you and all in your family. This brings tears to my eyes. Your quote at the end is especially poignant.
    It is such a gift to have family love you and yet a huge loss when their loving presence is no longer here.
    My prayers are with you and yours at this time. God will love and provide and comfort you well.

  4. Susan Bever

    I typed too fast! My apology for the spelling error Henry. Susan

  5. maureen

    What an eloquent tribute to your brother, and the special connection among siblings. Your photos of Ralph and Kai, and your tribute to him, are full of warmth and tenderness…just like you, Henry. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  6. Cathy Larsen Cummings

    Henry, thank you for sharing about Ralph. What great memories you have of life shared and what a blessing! I love that you captured Ralph & Kai together – how precious! I can hardly believe that 2 weeks ago I was riding in honor of Ralph. My heart is breaking for you. Praying His comfort in the midst of your grief.

  7. Susan

    I feel your pain. Sending lots and lots of love, Cousin.

  8. Jane Chamberlain

    What a beautiful tribute, Henry. I especially like this part:

    “the cultural memory of our little family has been dealt a terrible blow…. In what seems like the blink of an eye, whole volumes of institutional memory have simply vanished. And that is a terribly lonely thought, that no amount of company and condolence can ease or erase.”

    You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. I’m thinking now of Hagar, who praised God as “a God of seeing” after he revealed Himself to her while she was lost in the wilderness. May He comfort you.

  9. HannaH

    Beautiful tribute, Henry. You are all in my prayers. <3

  10. HannaH

    Beautiful tribute, Henry. You are all in my prayers. <3

  11. LaClaire Anderson

    Our Hartley Family, thank you, Henry, for sharing so much loving feelings with us. You two had a special bond. Your entire family is in our prayers. Even when we know it is coming, we are not ready to give them up.Our love and prayers are with all of you. LaClaire

  12. Lyn

    Henry, I don’t know how you do it. In the midst of grief and loss, you conjure words that evoke love and joy and sadness all at the same time, that take us into your heart and give us a glimpse of the special relationship you have lost. We are holding you in our hearts, and in the Light, and hope to be able to be with you sometime soon. Know we love you and all your family.

  13. Margie Thomson

    Beautiful riding and beautiful tribute to your brother, your best friend. Thanks for sharing so much with us about Ralph. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Love you guys.

  14. Dr. Doug & Pam Perkins

    Our deepest condolences to you, Henry! What a remarkable man! Thanks for letting us enter into your feelings, including grief. Prayerfully, with Christ (Who weeps too even as He intercedes), DOUG & PAM