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Honoring the life of Dick Donovan leads to reflective moment

Montville — Imagine: just sitting there in quiet contemplation. Phone off. Alone with your thoughts. Comforting. Peaceful. And maybe a little eerie, how such an impromptu inventory of your life would ever happen at 11 a.m. on some random Tuesday.

But that was my Tuesday, inside Saint John The Evangelist Church, both mourning the death and celebrating the life of Richard Donovan, 76, who was part of several great sports families in the region.

Mr. Donovan, Dick — or "Gerry" as some knew him — was a fixture in the bleachers here in our corner of the world, watching his children, later his grandchildren, play all kinds of games in all kinds of sports. Not many other clans ever did it better (and with more humor) than the Donovans/McDermotts/Johnsons.

I got to know Mr. Donovan first through my friendship with his son, Steve McDermott, who kept me laughing on the Fitch football sidelines for years. I'd see Mr. Donovan later at the Waterford High games and meets of Steve's kids, Alison and Mike; and then watching grandsons Matt and Kevin Johnson. Mr. Donovan and I shared some laughs, but mostly an affinity for the stuffed clams his daughter, Eileen, would make. We may have combined for 150 eaten at Kevin's graduation party.

Mr. Donovan's brother, Bill, a longtime coach and public address announcer in the region, gave one of the eulogies, telling a classic story about how he was one out away from throwing his third straight no-hitter in Little League until Dick got a hit off him two outs into the sixth.

"Sixty-five years later, I realize I should have walked him," Bill said, drawing a group giggle.

Mr. Donovan personified the good life lived. A gentle soul whose legacy — his family — honors his good works with their good works every day.

And yet my quiet contemplation awakened something deeper, ignited through the day's first reading from Ecclesiastes:

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to search and a time to give up; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to mend; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

"I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil — this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it."

Mr. Donovan's death has me pondering life a little harder today.

What are we doing with our time?

Ecclesiastes tells us, essentially, to everything there is a season. There is a time for everything. I believe that if we live through Mr. Donovan's principles and have enough faith, life's details work out for us ... in time.

Meanwhile, though, the gnawing question: What are we doing with our time?

How do we treat people?

Do we help them?

Are we interested in anything beyond our self-interest?

Do we tell the people who mean the most to us what they mean to us?

Are we with the person we're meant for?

There is a time and place for everything. Maybe right now, it's the time and place for more quiet contemplation.

Are we really happy and fulfilled — or is there more?

I was reminded again Tuesday of another passage from Ecclesiastes: "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart."

Loosely translated: It's better to go to a funeral than a party.

Indeed, funerals have a way of reminding us, grounding us and awakening our spirit.

Mr. Donovan's funeral gave all his extended family a chance to reunite. To mourn. To celebrate. To reconnect.

It gives the rest of us pause — and cause — to practice some self-reflection.

What are we doing with our time?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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