About a week ago Kelley and I both experienced a loss of a family member. Kelley's grandmother passed away Friday June 13th and my Uncle Tony took his leave of this Earth on Tuesday June 10th.
The thing is, we get so goddamned caught up doing the things that we have to do, the things that we are used to doing, that we scarcely can get ourselves to stop and do the things that we want to do. The things that we should do. Like spending time with family. Traveling. Playing catch in the yard. Enjoying life. And the people that matter most to us in this life.
My Uncle Tony was no Saint. He probably did things that none of us would have been proud to talk about. He willfully lived on the streets more than once in his life. He resisted the notion of putting down roots, and it could be speculated on endlessly what motivated him to live the hard life that he lived. Maybe he was running from something. Maybe he was afraid to fail, so he never stayed in one place, doing one thing, long enough to fail. Or maybe he just liked to stay moving. Maybe he was one of the last free spirits. The last hippie.
But my Uncle wasn't only a vagabond. He was also a musician. He was the finest musician I have ever known, personally. And though he never made his mark on the music world in the grand sense, perhaps it was enough for him to just strum with his brother and friends. And he never gave up on doing the thing that he loved just because it never brought him riches and fame.
He gave his close family sleepless nights worrying about him, and that isn't a tasty banana, no matter how you peel it. But he lived his life the way he wanted to. He stopped to smell the roses, maybe too many times, but at least he smelled them.
Life is responsibility. But life is also laughter and tears and sweat and toils and grins and heartache. It's drunken conversations with a friend on a tailgate at night in the middle of nowhere. Life is the granddaddy of all Christmas gifts. And yet we watch it pass us by with indifference. In fact, we encourage it to pass as quickly as possible, in hopes that the weekend will get here sooner. And then we curse the same swiftness of time when Sunday rolls around and another day of working starts to peak its ugly head around the corner.
We say things like, "One of these days...". But then the next day comes, and then the next, and nothing changes. We say, "One of these days..." so often, and for so long, that nobody really believes that that day will ever come. In fact, what we're really saying is that nothing is very important until the idea of losing the thing is staring you in the face.
Grandmas and Grandpas and Uncles and Aunts and Cousins and Brothers and Sisters come and go, live and die, with the passage of every day. And there is nothing new to that concept. But, though we may all die alone, none of us truly have to live alone.
It hurts when someone leaves us forever. But maybe the last thing my Uncle did for me, was to teach me to stop letting the days pass me by without being with the people that I love.
His memorial service was held this past Saturday in Columbus, Texas. It was nice to see family from my Dad and Mom's side, but it was striking to bear witness to just how few of us are left. "One of these days..." has to stop being some elusive, unattainable date in the very distant future. It's time for "One of these days..." to start now.