The Unexpected Present

The Ferryman Cancels Yuri’s Reservation

The Ferryman
Charon, at the River Styx, ferried my friend Roman Osadca to Elysium Fields. I thought I was going to precede him. The Ferryman told me I had to wait my turn. My reservation was canceled.

Saturday, February 19, 2022, Christina and I ferried by car to St. Nicholas Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Great Meadows, NJ to say our goodbye during the requiem mass. There were one hundred farewell bidders in the pews in this beautiful church. Roman and I grew up together in Trenton, NJ, metaphorically crib-mates as children of post-WW II parents who emigrated from Ukraine. Born in the 50s. Children of the 60s. Always interested in the physical aspect of the natural world, he moved boulders to build dams in creeks.

His volleyball and tennis prowess and being a bold worldwide skier made me smile. While he and I saw each other only intermittently during the decades, we always stayed in touch via email or holiday greeting cards. Some of the most memorable moments were being surprised for my sixtieth birthday party with Roman adding to the surprise by bringing a gong to herald my day. When Christina and I married in 2010, he and his wife, Debbie came a bit late to the reception because the cows had to be milked. As always, farm chores came first. I remember they danced all evening.

Roman and Debbie, built their own house, then a solar panel array on the farm in Warren County. He was a passive solar heating guy. An avid beekeeper, the honey was sublime. And when Christina and I visited the farm going back a year or two, we were treated to a tour of their achievements including his distillery of flavored vodkas. Garlic vodka was the Mountain Dew in 80 proof.

His curriculum vitae was as varied as life’s flavors: a chemical engineer, a Garlic King of the world, with over 150 species grown. When inexplicably I lost my voice, Christina went to one of the numerous talks he gave to the Ukrainian community on the health benefits of honey and garlic. She asked him what would help me get my singing voice back. He said, inhaling the smoke of organic garlic stems. I thought, “this is crazy,” but the months went by and one day on the way home from a road trip, my voice came back. I was singing along with the Joni Mitchell tunes. To this day, Christina says it had to be Roman’s organic stems.

Going to SuzyQ, the Ukrainian Heritage Center in Kerhonkson, NY, we met up with Roman where he took part in a bee conference, May 2019. It was the last time we saw him. We were all at the Tiki bar watching the sunset, laughing at his nonstop jokes, and commentaries. He was a big man with strong hands, a great smile, a big heart who shared so much of himself with others, and who lived his life to the fullest.

On Saturday, we left the church after the funeral mass and requiem, a memorial service for my longtime friend. Going back home, our GPS directions led us to Shades of Death Road. It was a winding, pothole-ridden, cliff-like, boulder imbued road. We were thankful it was daylight and not the dark side of the moon. It was symbolic, allegorical, mythical, and apropos for the occasion.

As we drew closer to our destination, a snow squall enveloped us. I said, “It’s Roman doing his thing,” disrupting the equilibrium of the day. Nature calmed down in fifteen earth minutes and we felt his smile as the sun reappeared. Roman touched the lives of everyone he met and he leaves an indelible mark on my life. Elysium Fields welcomes a new member.

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