Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

The Touch of a Life

By Barbara Hermanson, wife of Jim

“No man is an island.” John Donne expressed the truth that each person who has ever been born uniquely touches others’ lives in ways that no other person could. Each Christmas season when I watch It’s a Wonderful Life, I am reminded of this fact as George Bailey, who wishes he had never been born, has the opportunity to see what his hometown would have been like without his existence. George, my daughter Anne, and I have all left ripples in our communities that are significant.

First of all, George unselfishly helped others even at the cost of his own dreams. For example, he saved his brother Harry from drowning resulting in partial deafness for George. He delayed college to take over the savings and loan business after his father’s death. He gracefully provided for his widowed mother and incompetent uncle. And he provided low-cost homes for people in his community rather than make himself rich. These are just a few of the examples of the impact George had. If his brother had died, thousands of troops during World War II would have died on a troop ship that Harry defended as a pilot, his mother would have become bitter and destitute, and his uncle would have ended up in an insane asylum as a result of his drinking.

Secondly, my daughter Anne touched many lives during her twenty-seven years. After her death in April, 1995, our family received many letters and many friends told us stories about Anne’s love and unselfishness. As a daughter, sister, and granddaughter, our family often talks about the things we miss most about her. Through her thoughtfulness and fun-loving spirit, she brought much joy into all of our lives.

If Anne had not been married to Steve, he would have had a more difficult time making it through medical school because she was willing to sacrifice some of her dreams for further education in order to work so Steve could become a doctor. She was often alone at nights in a large and unfamiliar city while Steve studied at the library or worked at Grady Hospital. Because she wanted to make foreign students in her lab feel at home in America, she helped in many ways from buying furniture, to finding apartments, to even buying cars. At her funeral, her Indian boss and a Japanese post-doctoral student flew from Atlanta to Durango to be with us. When I introduced Harish as Anne’s boss, he gently said, “I wasn’t Anne’s boss. She was my boss,” as he acknowledged the influence she had in his life and in the lives of others in the research lab that she ran at Emory University.

High school and college friends have related incidents to us of why they loved Anne. She had a sense of humor and was famous for her funny faces and unique Halloween costumes she would make each year for the Mall Crawl at Colorado University. A woman, who was in a Bible study with Anne, wrote us at Christmas to tell us that she had many food allergies. Anne always made her something to eat that she would not be allergic to. Anne had a way of making you feel very welcome and at home. She was an excellent cook and loved to have lonely people come for dinner so that they would not be alone during the holidays. Christmas 1994, the last time our family was all together, she had bachelors, couples, and families over for dinner who were far away from their parents at the holidays because she knew how lonely they would be.

One of my favorite pictures of Anne and Steve is Anne kissing Santa Claus because Steve dressed up as Santa on the children’s cancer ward at Madigan Hospital, and Anne helped plan a special party for the children too ill to go home at Christmas. Most of all, I miss Anne’s gentle spirit. She and I were close friends. During college our relationship changed from mother-daughter to adult friends. Her phone calls, our talks, funny cards on recycled paper, and her prayers are greatly missed. She touched all of our lives in a gentle, generous, compassionate way. We are richer for her having been on this earth.

Finally, my life has touched my family in ways that would have left a void if I had never been born. I have encouraged my husband Jim to take risks that he might not otherwise have taken. He worked many years to finish a doctorate that he was ready to give up on. During the years of his battle with cancer, I learned to cook in different ways to help him heal, and we cried and prayed together often when he was very ill. He might not have lived without support and encouragement. My girls might not have learned to cook, sew, become homemakers and supportive wives, or grow as Christians because they might have had a mother interested in other things. It is humbling to think how my life has made a difference.

Therefore, whenever any of us thinks that our life doesn’t really matter and that our friends or parents would be better off without us, it is good to remember how others have affected us and how we have touched others. Every single person is a gift to others and their lives would never be as rich without us.

[ My History ] [ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]