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Words of Remembrance for Lyles Parachini
Dave Werner
April 7, 2007

Lyles’ parents have asked me to provide a joyful remembrance of Lyles, and I’m happy to do so, because I so enjoyed knowing him. One of my earliest memories of Lyles is his photograph on the birth announcement his parents sent me, imprinted on a refrigerator magnet. I was happy to see it the day it arrived, and I put it on my refrigerator door. It’s been there ever since, greeting me every new day when I prepare breakfast. This morning, stirring the oatmeal, it reminded me of how, in his all too brief time with us, Lyles delighted many with his happy and gentle spirit. It is this spirit that I wish to etch for us all in a few vignettes.

Lyles was always ready with a hug or kiss for his parents, grandparents, his cousins, aunts and uncles. He loved his nanny and his baby sitter. He adored his big sister, Julia, and he thrived under her attention and care. No little boy has ever had a more loving sister.

Julia took her big sister role very seriously, even though she wasn’t much bigger. Her parents will always remember her, as instructed, desperately trying to hold Lyles still for a photo op with Santa as he tried to flee the guy with the white beard.

Lyles seemed to be born with happy feet, taking delight in his first steps. He grew quickly into a sturdy and agile little boy, chasing Max the cat about the house, dancing to a music box, and raking autumn leaves with his father in the back yard.

Among his friends were his stuffed animals, first Teddy, then Winnie the Pooh, and then Monkey. Monkey was Lyles’ constant companion during his hospital stay. He patiently explained to everyone, even strangers on the elevator, that Monkey’s name was, of course, Monkey.

Lyles was a little gourmet. He loved pancakes, fine Italian Gorgonzola cheese, and zucchini. Yes, this was a boy who actually ate his vegetables. He also loved preparing and sharing food. In his last months, Lyles often played at a toy kitchen that his father assembled for him in his hospital room. When Lyles received assorted Halloween candy from the hospital staff, he sautéed some in a pan, put the rest of it in the play microwave, and then served up a dinner of M&Ms, Starburst and Skittles for his mother. And he insisted that she eat everything on her plate.

Music was an important part of Lyles’ life and he was always an enthusiastic participant in the music class he attended. And he played music on his own. His parents were surprised one night to hear emanating from the baby monitor the soulful wailing of a toy harmonica he had taken to bed with him.

In October, I had dinner with Lyles on one of his last days at home. Lyles seemed so vibrant, full of life and so enjoying the moment. As he and I played before dinner, he took me through a few medical rituals. He handed me a toy stethoscope and asked me to examine Monkey, and then to examine him. I’m not a doctor, but I’m glad now that I played one on Davis Street that night.

After dinner, John asked me to play a selection on the kazoo for the children. As you probably know, the kazoo is not really a musical instrument, but I played an old favorite called “Down by the Riverside.” Lyles and Julia loved it. They squealed with delight at the wide, wah-wah vibrato of the kazoo. As soon as I finished, they called for more, which I took as a professional compliment. The little people were generous with big applause. It was so much fun for me. We said goodnight, and the children went to bed. That was the last time I saw Lyles.

And I’ve thought a lot about that time, and about that song since. And I hope that Lyles and I will meet someday again down by the riverside, share a song with friends, maybe cook up a little something to eat.

Meanwhile, I know I’ll see him tomorrow morning on the refrigerator door, watching me while I fix breakfast. I think he’d like that.

Lyles’ life, to me, is a reminder that life for all of us is short, but that it can be full of happiness and full of wonder. For those of us who knew Lyles, who learned from him and with him, those of us who loved him and were loved by him, it is a sad time, yet it is also a time to be grateful for the joy that Lyles brought to us and shared with us, for the many ways that he enriched our lives. 

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