Living in exceptional times


Photo (from left to right): Dave Richards, Kevin Neely, Andy Hunter, Fitzpatrick Mauldin, Alex Bedwell.

I’m sure I’ve reached a point in life that almost everyone reaches, where the rate of the world seems to move faster than ever before. Change comes daily, and much of it not the kind of change you want. Then again, among that riptide of time you find things so beautiful you can’t help but be left in awe. Those are the things you hold on to like a life raft.

Three years ago one of my best friends, Kevin, died out of nowhere. It was the first time, other than a grand parent, I had had to face the death of someone close to me. It wasn’t and isn’t easy. Ever since his passing there has been a hole in my heart that I’m not sure anyone else can fill. Death makes you question your life and your direction. It brings up not only feelings of loss but of confusion. In many ways I have felt adrift.

The first thought I had when Kevin passed away was, “He’ll never get to meet my daughter.” That is a thought that hasn’t left me, despite everyone’s reassurances he would have loved her. A month after his death my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, to which I said after she was born, “Do we get to keep her?”

As one life left the world, another entered. The circle complete. Life and death and rebirth, it is all part of the human condition. I’ve swallowed down the pain of his passing. I’ve poured my heart and soul into my family. I strive every day to be the best father I can be, and that right time to time. I try to show my daughter the way as she grows and learns.

The past few months have been a challenge. I have pushed myself at my day job and in my writing. I have undertaken projects I would have never have considered before. And why? Because, ever since Kevin’s death, I am chronically aware of my own mortality. To use Terry Pratchett’s metaphor, there’s an hourglass hidden somewhere in Death’s robes with my name on it, and I have no idea how much sand is left.

I do all I can to make the best of every day. Every moment. I try not to weigh myself down with petty worries and existential fear. But I have a very active imagination. It’s not easy. I’m an anxious person, always thinking.

I’ve finished another book, The Two That Remained, worked through the edits, pushed through the day job, exhaustion, and being a father and husband. I find myself overwhelmed at times with all the expectations I place upon myself. I never wish to let anyone down. I never wish to let the memory of my friend down. There is just so much to be done. Important stuff.

Enter the political shift in America. If you know me, you know I am not happy with the direction of our country at this time. I hope for the best and will fight for what I think is right as I can, but I am afraid. Not afraid of terrorists or the economy, but of hate and of climate change, of ignorance and complacency. I feel so very small in this churning sea of madness. I look to my family for strength.

A week ago a close friend of mine, Alex, who was part of the same group my best friend Kevin and I sort of led, was murdered in a senseless argument over a girl. The jealous ex murdered him in cold blood. I went to his memorial today, surrounded by those who loved him, but hardly a face did I recognize. He was a complicated friend to have, as we all knew, but he had one of the best hearts I have ever seen, outgoing and unbridled. What I learned there, having not been near him in recent years, was how much he had changed for the better. The man they knew now, wasn’t exactly the same that I had known. There were different stories than mine, different jokes, different reactions, but still the same guy. And his throaty, deep chested, barks of laughter will never be forgotten.

Alex had been a man filled with hate and anger when we met, using smiles and a killer whit to cover the pain, but he had learned to let go of that pain. He had learned to move on. And just then, he was taken from us.

(Don’t solve your arguments with firearms. It’s not worth it. Please.)

I want to find meaning in his passing, just like any major change that occurs in life. I want to ask God what it all means. But the answers aren’t so simple, and perhaps there aren’t any. It was a senseless act and the man responsibly is out on bail. All that I know is that I am proud of Alex for making it as far as he had. Onward and upward. Excelsior! He died as he always was, a good man.

If there is anything I can say right now, that isn’t just rambling thoughts, is that I don’t know what to say. Being in my mid 30s, I have enough perspective to know things will get better. But that still doesn’t keep it from hurting. And so I smother my family in far more affection than they can stand. It’s all I can do to heal this empty heart. To look into my daughter’s eyes really helps too.

I’m down two good friends, ones that made a big impact on my life. I feel like I’m too young for this. We all had our crazy days, and we got past them. We survived. The two of them pulled my butt out of the fire more times than I can name. And we only had singed clothing as a result.

And so I leave you with this:

Love one another. Take care of one another. Spend time with one another, face to face. Take nothing for granted. Life entitles you to nothing, and nothing is fair but what we strive to make fair. Let grudges go. Find your happiness, and hold that happiness tight as you fall smiling into the abyss.

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