Well it’s here again. That day that comes every year. It is a day that I both fear and welcome because unlike Christmas or the first day of Summer brings both unwelcomed emotion and yet also allows me to revel in the good times, the inspiration and all the things I’ve been taught. It is a day that is tied to family members’ birthdays. Tied to a first wedding that had to be postponed. It’s a day that is tied to so many other people and a day that reminds me why I started LiFE is NOW… It’s a day that always injects a bit of ‘wanting to be a better man’. A day that makes me thankful to have what I have and to enjoy life in its good times and its bad. A day that makes me want to help others less fortunate, and be with family and friends.
And yet with all its good and all its memories it is a day filled with utter pain and disgust and questions of ‘why?’. On this particular year it is a day that was indelibly burned onto my brain and heart 21 years ago and yet the raw emotions still linger. This day, which took place 21 years ago today, was the day your life ended and mine, mom’s and so many others’ changed. A black hole was created. And with your size and presence the hole was huge. This day came and went in the blink of an eye. A mere blip in cosmic time and you were gone and things in this world would never be the same. Utter disbelief. A hope that maybe they were wrong. Maybe a miracle would happen or the clocks would turn back like in the movies. It happened then; and in the blink of our unbelieving eyes 21 years have passed.
You said you weren’t wearing a tux to the wedding. You said you would be there in Bermuda shorts and a golf shirt. Man would I have loved to see that! Only, none of us got the chance to as this day happened 4 days before my wedding. At the location we were to have the wedding. You were there (as so many others were) helping people in need, as you see Hurricane Bob flooded the basement and everyone was there to help clean up. You included. You never made it home. Nor did you make it to the wedding. Hell, I would’ve worn shorts and a golf shirt with you if I’d only realized how trivial the tux was and how fleeting life is.
I learned a lot from you in your 50 years and to this day still call upon my experiences to make plans, decisions and interact with people. What I didn’t count on was what I learned from this day, 21 years ago. I learned very quickly at the young age of 25 that things are temporary no matter how you look at them or try to preserve them, they are temporary and will always be that way. There is nothing we can do about it. What we can do is make every effort to embrace and enjoy that which we have right now. Unfortunately, most of us don’t ever realize how temporary things are; and without ever realizing it how do we capitalize on those things that are important to us.
You lived your life ‘larger than life’ (at least from my perspective as a son). You touched so many lives and not just because you were a teacher but because you were a human being and one that was at home and alive in the center of human interaction. One of your favorite songs was Sinatra’s version of “My Way” and for good reason; it fit you. But doing it ‘your way’ did not mean you were unavailable for others, simply that you maintained an unwavering quality of character. To this day I am constantly asked if you were my father. A question at which I smile and one that ignites a sense of pride within me. The story then continues of how their lives were touched and affected by their interaction with you. How you were hard and tough and yet (always) fair. The story never progresses or finishes without them pointing out that you were always fair. Seems that even in people’s worst of times you were able to discern the good in them and nurtured that rather than squashing it. You were the same with me. You may have yelled at me for doing things I shouldn’t have but it always ended with a hug and an ‘I love you’ as the reasoning for the scolding. Tough yet fair.
Your shoe size: 13. My shoe size: 12. Physically you had big shoes to fill and it took me a long time to realize that I did not have to fill your shoes. And as you can see, physically I couldn’t anyway. That is not my job. My job is to live my life and live my life now. Love those that I have around me. Help those that I can. And, utilize what I learned from the time spent listening and watching you while you were around.
This day will forever haunt me but I hope it will continue to be an inspiration to me and many others that everything is temporary so grab onto those things you love and have a passion for and enjoy them to their maximum potential.
One day many years ago I walked alone along a beach during the Summer and was thinking of this day and I began to scribble down some thoughts and words on a piece of paper. I put the paper somewhere and must have forgotten about it until I found it one day in the Summer of 2003 while cleaning out a notebook. I read the words I’d written years before and suddenly from there added more verses and thoughts to what had become a note of “hello” and “goodbye” to you. It was as if the timing of finding the note was in touch with the realizations I was having in 2003. It became a note of you saying goodbye; the struggles and demons I faced frequently of wandering and wondering; of believing I saw you in the clouds, in a passerby; of the lessons learned from you and culminating in the realization that I had to let you go; I had to say goodbye and live my life now; followed ultimately by the lingering question of “will we ever meet again? No one really knows”.
So, yes, I fear this day; and I welcome this day. You were a good teacher, father and friend. You taught me both in life and even on the worst day; for that I am thankful. Truly, LiFE is NOW… I have you to thank in part for realizing that. I only hope others realize it without having to first experience their “day”.