All of us have had sad days in our life. And then we have had the life-suddenly-stops-and-your-mind-goes-blank days.
I’ve had a few of those. Back in 1993, when my dad passed. In 2006, when Mom did. In 2010, when my ex-wife left for Texas with my son.
Then there was yesterday. More specifically, 7:10 am yesterday, when I’m relaxing for a moment in the living room with a cup of coffee, and my wife is browsing through my email.
“You’re brother sent you an email.”
“Yeah?” I said, distracted by something on the TV. “What did he say?”
She hesitated for a moment, and I looked over. Then she looked up.
Flashback: Fall, 1979
Some of you can’t, because you weren’t even a gleam in your daddy’s eye yet. But I was fresh out of the Marines, and looking to grow my hair long, both literally and figuratively. Dave was the outside agent for his family’s insurance agency, and I went in to pay my car premium. We met for the first time, and discovered very quickly a mutual love for booze, frisbee, and wild women. I didn’t know it right then, but a brotherhood was being born that would last three decades. So, it started. Dave and I hit every tavern, jukebox joint, and lights-a-spinning disco from our little one-light town to mid-city Pittsburgh. It was five years of wild, but down in the middle of it – and something I look back on now – we were forging something much more important than raucous memories.
See, even during those somewhat alcohol-muddled times, David was a gentle soul. I don’t think I can recall seeing him angry at someone. He laughed a lot, and his smile was truly infectious. As you can see, he was a good-looking guy too, and certainly THE eligible bachelor in our town. Women chased him, not the other way around. Anyway, my time to move on came, and I moved to South Carolina. We stayed in touch, of course, and during one of our many phone conversations, he told me he had met this women, Donna. Smart, gorgeous, had her own business, the whole enchilada. Over the months, he talked more and more of her and finally came the wedding invitation. I flew back and attended perhaps the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been privileged to see. It was in a garden behind a small brick house, and both bride and groom looked delirious with love. I, in fact, have the photos I took, and look at one in particular, time to time. The two of them are facing each other, and it wouldn’t do justice to say the rest of the world had fallen away. They could have been suspended over an erupting volcano and the rapture wouldn’t have left those faces. David had found his true love.
So, we stayed in touch, mostly by phone, and I occasionally came back home for a visit and never failed to go see Dave and Donna. I remember one time in particular when I came unannounced. I knocked on the door, and he answered.
“Hey…what’s the chances for a Manhattan?” I asked in typical smartass fashion.
He stood frozen for a moment, a look of astonishment on his face. Then he seemed to shake himself and said, “When I say your face just now, I had a flashback of all the great times we had over the past few years. Man, it’s good to see you again.”
Yesterday at 7:10, it happened exactly the same for me. Starting at that moment, all of our deeds and adventures, good and bad, started playing in my mind, and didn’t stop until I fell asleep last night.
What I now know is that Dave had the kernel of something good growing in him. Oh, I knew he was a good person, but didn’t know just how good. See, we lost touch a few years ago. You know how that goes. You miss the guy, but your hand never quite reaches for the phone. Of course, I had to call Donna yesterday, though, and we talked for over an hour. And she told me David had found his calling, had become ordained, and had started a business counseling folks preparing for marriage, and then marrying them. He had finally found his place, his love – his very own niche on this world.
And then, he found a lump. I’m not going to go into the whole process that followed that discovery. I’ll just say that it lasted well over a year, and David died from complications from cancer with his loving wife and daughter at his bedside.
During our conversation, Donna told me she was lost, that she sometimes couldn’t figure out how she would go on – and where in the hell this fit in God’s plan. And in that moment, I think I figured it out.
There isn’t a plan. We are all given a life. Some are long, some are short, some are healthy, some filled with tragedy, some smooth as glass. For much of it, the path we travel is up to us. And let me tell you, when you get news like I did, you realize very quickly just how little time you have to make those decisions. Two blinks, no more.
David found his path. He lived his life fully, with grace and love. His family – and from what I’m told, many more – adored him, and he left a legacy to which I can only hope to aspire. A gentle spirit, he has gone home. Godspeed, my brother.
I would humbly ask that you say a prayer for David, Donna, and Shea. Donna is reading this, and if you could just leave a comment, it would mean more to me than if you bought 10,000 of my books. I know my followers, and I know the love and compassion that exists in each and every one of you.