Feeling weighed down this week and need to get it out all out. FYI: I rambled without the intention of posting it here, as a way to just unload, writing to no one in particular and with the plan to simply stop writing when I felt better and delete it all. While I feel a little lighter, like letting out a deep breath, I’m still not quite there. Not sure why I’m posting this tonight, but figured why not….
“My best friend gave me the best advice, he said each day is a gift and not a given right.”
I sat in the back of a funeral home Wednesday night, at the service for a 32-year old man. Thirty-two. Life barely even started, barely enough time standing on his feet in this bizarre world. Listening to person after person speak, story after story of “this one time…” and “if you knew Aaron you knew that…” Thirty-two years old. Watched as grown, tough men broke down in tears in mid-story, overwhelmed by the loss of the man lying just a few feet away. I watched a thirteen year old girl with strength I only wish I had, say goodbye to her Daddy one last time. Watched a woman say goodbye to the husband she met when she was only fifteen years old, thinking about the fact that tomorrow she had to start a new life without him, and there was never a time in her life Aaron wasn’t there, that’s she’s never known life without him. Watched and listened to my two oldest brothers (technically my half brothers) stand up in front of that room _ filled with so many people that they were lined up 3-4 deep standing around the perimeter because there simply was no more room _ and listened as they said goodbye to their little brother. Watched my eight year old nephew struggle to understand, knowing the meaning the word death but not able to sort out the emotions attached to the word, watched my teenage nieces experience first hand that death happens to those who aren’t sick or old. A fact they knew but hadn’t suffered through. I wish they didn’t have to have gone through that.
“The hands of time are never on your side…”
Death is never easy, never reasonable. It’s never uncomplicated, but when someone’s sick or even elderly some part of you is….not necessarily prepared, but you know it’s coming. Sometimes it’s an end to suffering, and in those cases it’s almost welcome. When someone goes to bed and simply doesn’t wake up the next morning, and they’re barely over thirty…. There’s no comfort there, there’s no logic, there’s no sense. You try to have faith, try to believe that there really is a reason for everything that happens but things like this…. It makes you wonder. It makes you question that faith. And sometimes even doubt it for a quick moment. You try believe that there’s some master plan we’re not privy to, that He’s got it all sorted out. But sometimes you wonder what He’s thinking.
This week…the past six months really…have been saturated with death. People far too young, taken far too soon, without reason or explanation.
Aaron is my half-brothers’ half-brother. Always a fixture and name in our family and in my childhood… Sitting at that funeral home this week and at Chuck’s house last night listening to stories about him, I wish I would’ve had the opportunity to get to know Aaron the man better than I did. Listened to stories my brother’s told from their childhood, listened to his friends talk about stupid things they did as teenagers, listened to a poem he wrote to his daughter just a few months ago that his wife found the day of his funeral.
“Every second counts ’cause there’s no second try, so live like you’re never living twice…”
If you know me at all you know I’ve said a million times to do it now because we’re not guaranteed a tomorrow. And now more than ever I stand by that one hundred percent. My brother Mark and I butt heads so often it’s rare that we’re not, and one thing he always bitches at me about is saving money. I can’t do it, I put a little money away and find something I really want to do – concerts, vacations, whatever it may be. Is it the best idea long term? Of course not, I know this. But those things I’ve done – wouldn’t trade them for a world and there’s no dollar amount I can put on them. I would’ve even want to think about adding up the money I’ve spent on concert tickets. To me there’s nothing better in the world than that, losing yourself somewhere between the lyrics and the music so loud you can literally feeling it coursing through you, sharing the moment with a close friend or two, or quite often a family member.
“We only had a few days and a whole lot of memories to make.”
Mark rolled his eyes when I told him I was going to New Orleans on vacation this past summer, once again saying I should just save my money or pay off some bills. It’s been almost six months since we got home and I still look at those pictures at least once a week, usually more often, and can’t help but smile the whole time. It was the trip of a lifetime with one of my oldest and dearest, and there’s no way paying off some credit card bill would’ve been worth it. Not even close. Hell, we had to evacuate because of a hurricane and there isn’t a single thing I’d change about that trip. Like all those concerts and nights in NOLA, the memories and the songs make me warm inside, and there’s no giving that up, no giving that back.
I know life is short, that’s been proved to me time and time again even as a kid, and it kills me to see people put it off till tomorrow. Some people spend their entire lives planning for a tomorrow none of us are guaranteed. Fear nothing and regret even less. I try to live by that, it’s easier some days than others. As a teenager I watched my Uncle Steven lie in a bed for three years, slowly dying due to Lou Gehrig’s disease and telling everyone that he didn’t regret a thing because he lived. He went places and seen things and made memories and friends that lasted him till his final days. He died at the age of 44. When I have the internal debates of ‘should I really do this or try saving money for…” His face always pops into my head, and I remember sitting next to him along the lake in Port Huron where the family always went fishing. His disease had been recently diagnosed, the effects starting to wear on his body by that time, and I remember he’d been quiet for awhile out of no where he leaned over and kissed the top of my head, then ruffled my hair and said to me “Promise your Uncle Steve you wont waste any of the days you’re given, ok sweetheart?” I told him ok, and he made me say the words “I promise”. He winked at me and turned to take a drag of his cigarette, and I pretended not to notice the tears in his eyes as he did so. I’ve never told a single soul that, even to this very day, and sitting here now I’m not sure why I haven’t. I was thirteen or fourteen at the time, and now over a dozen years later, that moment is as clear to me as if it happened yesterday.
At Aaron’s funeral, they played a couple songs. The second his wife said was one of his favorites – Only God’s Know Why. It seems fitting, under the circumstances. I don’t know why he was taken so young…. I don’t pretend to understand it. Maybe he learned all the lessons he was supposed to learn in this life. I don’t know.
Lots of friends and family spoke… about the man he was, the dad he was, the things he did. With one resounding theme: If he was your friend, if he cared about you, he would do anything for you.
It got me to thinking… I hope my friends know that I feel that same way. That I will always do whatever I can, whatever is within my power, for them. Whether it’s my best and oldest friends, elementary best friends, or ones that are new…. I love you guys. Even if we’ve lost touch, know that I miss ya and I’m around. Always will be. Whether you need a couch to crash on, or simply an ear and a shoulder…
“And when your walls come tumbling down, I will always be around…”
And those things you want to do in life, the experiences you want have, the places you want to see….. There’s a big difference between existing and living. If you’re unhappy, make the change. Spending day after day in a pattern and place of unrest is a waste of precious valuable time. If you’re not sure, try. Just don’t sit back and wait. Living your life “kind of happy” isn’t right. Do it. Go. Now. Don’t wait any longer than you absolutely have to.
Because life truly is over too soon, and all too often without any warning.