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How lucky can one man get?

My twin brother has slipped away after 67 years, which seems like a long time and yet not nearly enough.

“It all went by so fast,” he said in late November from the hospital bed in his living room. He choked back a tear and said, “I know that’s true for everyone.”

For the past couple of years, he had often mentioned that his favorite song by singer John Prine featured the refrain, “How lucky can one man get.” Like many of Prine’s songs, the tune is more complicated than it appears, however, because the narrator says “There was all these things that I don’t think I remember. Hey, how lucky can one man get.”

But Terrence had a good memory, nearly to the end, and he believed that both of us had been among the luckiest people in history, finding our way to Fairbanks a half-century ago and discovering opportunities to do what we loved to do.

Not since our mother died when we were 9 years old do I remember the sense of loss that I feel today.

[Alaska historian and longtime UAF professor Terrence Cole dies at age 67]

The words of essayist William Hazlitt that our father introduced to us long ago fit the situation: “As we grow old, our sense of the value of time becomes vivid. Nothing else, indeed, seems of any consequence. We can never cease wondering that that which has ever been should cease to be.”

Terrence Michael Cole died at home on a December morning in the company of loved ones. He is survived by his adult sons, Henry and Desmond, born to the late Marjorie Kowalski Cole. And his daughter, Elizabeth, born to his second wife, Gay Salisbury.

Terrence was born on Sept. 23, 1953, in Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He weighed 5 pounds, 6 ounces — one ounce more than the older brother who appeared seven minutes earlier at 5:15 a.m.

It was a “Twins for Twins” day, according to a Westinghouse promotion, and our parents returned from the hospital with a twin washer and dryer, in addition to twins.

[Terrence Cole: The Final Lecture]

Terrence had been diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer more than three years ago, and he had chemotherapy sessions in Fairbanks and New York City every other week. He maintained close to a normal life until the drugs stopped working last spring. After that, he found it difficult to eat and drink, though he remained physically active until near the end.

He decided to go on hospice care in October, in which the focus was on pain relief and quality of life in the final stage of an incurable disease. He told us he was the LeBron James of hospice patients because he was still able to walk a mile, with two family members helping him stay steady, until a week before his death.

He loved running, bouncing a tennis ball as he made his way along the roads, and he also enjoyed bicycling.

An inveterate note taker, he often wrote these “Rules for Happy Life” on the inside cover of his notebooks:

1. Don’t complain.

2. See Rule No. 1

3. Remember whenever and wherever you see me — I’d rather be at the ballpark.

4. Bring a book

5. CYB not CYA.

CYB means Count Your Blessings. If he had trouble each day adhering to the tenets of Rule No. 2, it was not for a lack of trying.

The notebooks also featured other “Rules for Happy Life” followed by his friend Bill Hunt, which included this sage advice: “Don’t assume creek bed is a trail.”

Hunt is a retired Alaska historian and professor who was one of Terrence’s mentors, along with many others. Some that come to mind right now are Norma Bowkett, Claus Naske, John Bernet, Mary Ehrlander, Jerry McBeath, Bob Henning and Elmer Rasmuson.

One of the last things that Terrence said before he left us was, “Dermot’s not listening to me again.”

I can’t say that I always listened to him, but I did my best. As I wrote in the introduction to a book of essays published about my brother, one of the first things I remember is the night when we were 5 or 6, trying to sleep in our twin beds back on the farm in Pennsylvania.

I couldn’t sleep and I told him I didn’t know how to go to sleep. “Just close your eyes,” he said.

I am listening to him yet.

Former ADN columnist Dermot Cole is a longtime reporter, editor and author.

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