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April’s good life

John, April, Karin and me on a bike trip just before April was diagnosed with cancer.


I have a whole list of possible topics for commentaries, but as I sorted through them, my thoughts kept returning to April Dowler. My wife and I, and about 200 other friends and relatives, attended a memorial service for her last Saturday at the Presbyterian church in Shepherdstown. April died earlier this month after a nearly five-year-long battle with cancer.

She was too young, just a few days shy of her 68th birthday, and way too full of life to have been taken, but we don’t get to choose such things. We had been great friends since college.  She and her husband, John League, were integral to the lives of me and my wife and, as it turns out, many other people.

April accomplished much in her life. She was a lawyer, a family law master, a mediator, a teacher, a volunteer for many civic organizations and even a restaurant critic. She raised two children and had two grandchildren.

And she had lots of friends. She loved easily and was generous with her heart. When you were with April, she was always present. That accessible heart meant she could be hurt, but she would also forgive.

We talked often during her long illness and there was never any bitterness or hint that she felt sorry for herself. Every conversation would come back to her asking about us. How were we doing? What was going on in our lives?

She was whip smart, honest and opinionated, but never hateful or malicious. Her years as a family court judge contributed to her rational thinking about relationships. That quality meant friends frequently wanted her advice on issues great and small.

Her husband, John, was a tireless caregiver. She brought out the best in John and he said during the memorial that their relationship was stronger on the last day than it was on the first. He was holding her hand and telling her that he loved her as she breathed her last.

The memorial Saturday was very sad. We will all miss her, especially John and their two children. But the service was also a celebration of a meaningful life. April left this world better than she found it. As is often said, “It is not the years in your life, but the life in your years that counts.”

April crammed so much into those years, and still always found time to be a loving wife, mother, grandmother and friend. If you are lucky, you know someone like April, that rare individual who makes everyone around them better. There is a richness to their lives that is infectious.

When they die, there is a massive void that is not easily filled. But their lives are so impactful that it leaves an imprint on us.  That is what I’m thinking about today… and hopefully will remember for a long time.


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