Over the past couple of days I have lost two friends, both former Marines, who lived their lives to the fullest. They loved life, and touched many people. One died on his 78th birthday, the other a young man in his 40s, who died after a long struggle with a heart condition. He had finally received a heart transplant, but died from complications of the surgery having suffered a number of strokes. Likewise I have a high school classmate who is dying of Colon cancer, he contacted me on Facebook’s messenger application to let me know that he didn’t have long to live and wanted to thank me for my friendship over the years.
I will mourn my friends and try my best to be available to their families, because it is the only thing that I can do. But that being said, I know that cannot take away their grief, nor the loss they have suffered; nor can I be like the biblical character Job’s friends who entirely missed his grief, doubts, and questions, seeking instead to prove the unprovable question of why Job experienced such great loss. I am far too inadequate for that, and I do know my limitations. Maybe what I have gone through the past number of years following my time in Iraq has shown me the folly of trying to do more than to be with people in their grief, the best that I can, while at the same time not intruding on them by assuming that I have the answers, or the “magic wand” that will make everything better, as so many well-meaning people did with me in my darkest days. Good intentions do not always bring comfort or healing to the grieving or the wounded soul.
One thing that the loss of these friends, as well as a number of other friends over the past few months has done for me is to remind me of an attitude about life that I have had since I was a child; to live life to the fullest, to see it as an adventure, to imagine, dream, plan, and immerse myself in it, to cherish my wife Judy, my family, and my friends, especially those like my friend Nelson who served as my assistant and bodyguard in Iraq. There are so many things to live for, so many things to discover, places to see, knowledge to be learned, and wisdom to be gained to last a hundred lifetimes or more. Thus I cannot live in fear of death, yes it will come someday, but to quote Abraham Lincoln, “If I am killed I can die but once; but to live in constant dread of it, is to die over and over again.”
Life is too precious not to live it to the fullest, and likewise not to live it thinking I have been cheated, or have it destroyed by bitterness, or jealousy, or hate. As the late Negro League legend Buck O’Neil said, “Where does bitterness take you? To a broken heart? To an early grave? When I die I want to die from natural causes, not from hate, eating me up from the inside.” Buck O’Neil could have gone to that, living through Jim Crow, being to old to come across and play in the major leagues, not being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But he didn’t he lived and loved life and people to his dying day. That’s the way I want to go.
I know this kind of meandered, but it is what it is.
Have a great day, and live big.