Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning
The title of this post (and subject matter) and the photo don't have anything to do with each other. I've just been listening to Willie quite a bit lately and didn't realize until I was downloading the photo that it is "first thing this morning" too! I just thought it was a pretty sunrise the other morning and happen to get a shot.
The title and the subject matter are kinda related in that sometimes, when it seems that things are trying enough as it is, Life just wants to really push us further than we can go. However, as I have sometimes learned although not part of the song, if you will go ahead with it, there is often a lesson or some benefit to it. This post is also mainly for a friend; someone who's words meant a great deal to me many years ago, although I'm sure he is completely unaware. Often times random things we say in the course of conversation can really hurt or help the other person without us ever knowing but this event turned out to be a great benefit to me even though it started out badly in my mind.
This post is not a downer but does have some serious content at first so if you prefer lighter fare I won't be offended if you go on to the next blog. Except you Buddy, you keep reading. Fifteen years ago, during the last week of September, my brother died at his own hand. For many years afterward I had a lot of trouble accepting this and often blamed myself for his actions. I was the last person to speak to him or see him alive. It wore on me for a long time and I constantly questioned what I could have done to have stopped him or changed something. Now, at the time of his death I was working at a large, old church on the south side of Birmingham. That was the last place I ever saw my brother, so for many years, and really even to this day, I avoided even that neighborhood. We lived about a quarter mile from this church also, so I didn't want to be around there at all.
Well, skip ahead about 5 years, I'm newly divorced and living north of Birmingham. The personnel director for my company called and asked me to go run some trim at a church. It was a small job, just one carpenter and the superintendent were all that was needed and I'd only be there about a week. The church was over on the south side of Birmingham, not the one, but right next door. In fact, you could literally stand between the 2 churches, stretch out your arms and touch both buildings at the same time.
Well, when would I be needed there? Oh, the last week of September. Just that week.
Couldn't they get someone else? There are better trim carpenters than me! Nope. No one else is available.
I couldn't really say, "I can't go" and didn't want to get into why. It's highly frowned upon in our business if you refuse to go to a certain job without very good reason so, having just turned out as a journeyman, I felt that I had to just suck it up, as they say. After all, it was just for a few days but God, what a slap in the face. I mean, any other time of year or any other place but this!
So, I made it through the first couple of days but my mind was really working on me and I felt myself becoming quite depressed. The third day was the exact anniversary of my brother's death and I was really struggling to make it all the way to quitting time. So, at lunch the superintendent and I were sitting around chatting about various things, when he started telling me about his wife and family. As far as I know, he was unaware of my situation so I'm not sure what brought that subject or the one that followed up, it's been 10 years after all, but we talked on and then he started telling me about his wife's grandfather, I think it was. It might have been his grandfather but at any rate, this man had told him (my boss) that years before something had happened to him and it really brought him down. He became very depressed and finally one day decided that he could no longer take it. He took a loaded gun and went outside, I think to the barn. He was completely alone and had all the freedom to carry out his plan. No one was there to stop him. As he sat there for a few moments collecting himself, his thoughts turned to his granddaughter. She was very young and he loved his granddaughter very much, so much so that he decided that was the one thing that he could stand to live for.
It was like someone had turned a light on in my head. Though we really want to help our loved ones, everyone is ultimately responsible for themselves. You can't make people do what you thing is best for them, we all have to find our life on our own. Whether you choose to believe in God or another person or the greater collective of mankind, each person must have something to hold on to. You can only hold on to someone's hand for so long after they've let go. I didn't say anything at the time for whatever reason but from then on the load seemed a little lighter and I began to accept what had happened. I will always miss my brother and still feel somewhat that I could have done more but I have a better understanding of things now.
So, when things get rough for me or it seems that I'm being asked to "take one on the chin" I try and remember that there may be something in it for me after all. Maybe a chance to learn or see from a new perspective. And thank you Buddy, for sitting down and having lunch with me that day. You may not remember that job but I always will.