Deep thoughts often start with profound answers to stupid questions. I have stopped blogging and podcasting for the last two months, as I have pondered the answer more than the question.
What words most powerfully end a sentence that starts with, “And then….”
“And then, he figured it out.” Nope. Discovery is fantastic, but not enough to be memorable for anyone other than the discoverer.
“And then, he won.” Meh. ESPN has taken away any significant meaning to that phrase anymore.
“And then, he was caught.” We get an image that justice was served, but that story will continue. Still not worthy of contemplation.
I conclude the answer is simple yet profound.
“And then he died.”
Death creates termination of ‘tomorrow’ for the person referenced. For the rest of us who had a relationship with the person in the question, that, too, is terminated. Memories and their impact are all that survive.
Where did this stupid question come from? It has taken two months to get a place where I can intelligently answer that.
The day before Christmas, my father-in-law died. He was a great leader, businessman, and family guy. That said, his greatest identity did not come from his family, wealth, or accolades. He was a follower of Christ, literally beyond the end. For Manny, the words “he died” are precursors to the rest of the sentence. What follows for Manny is, “and he went to heaven.” My initial thoughts of no tomorrows for Manny are correct, as there is no time as we understand it in heaven. Relationships as they exist on earth are also no more. Yet, hope remains.
He was a mentor to me. Despite all the business acumen that he shared, the words he gave me when he was down to his last day on Earth were the ones I will most remember.
He told me that he trusted me with his daughter. I don’t have a daughter, but I can’t imagine what it took for him to look me in the eyes and say, “I trust you with my daughter.” It was a charge for me to act honorably, and it was an expression of his hope to maintain and nurture what he thought was precious.
How did he do that? He gave it away. Specifically, he gave her away. He didn’t make the worldly request to “take care of my daughter.” That is what the mafia would ask of their sons-in-law! He said that he trusted me. I am sure he knew I would not get it right, but he challenged me, nonetheless.
Just like Christ. Manny took ownership of his words at the end of his days, and I am sad that nearly no one else in the family got to sit with him during those final hours like his wife, my wife and I did.
That experience slowed my writing, yet it got a kickstart on Saturday. I got a message from a guy named Jack. I didn’t know Jack (no pun here). He said that he had terrible news. Jack was out riding his bike in a group on Saturday, and the guy he was riding with had told him all about his upcoming trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway that Alex and I are leading. Jack had heard him talk about it before, and the guy was telling him about his plans to make sure he was ready when we started in late May.
In the middle of the ride, Jack said the guy asked to stop for a moment to check what he thought was low tire pressure. He pulled over, stepped off his bike, fell over, and never stood up. Jack said he was dead within a minute. Jack reached out to me the day of the event because this guy had just been talking about me and the ride the moment before he died. He wanted to let me know that he didn’t suffer, and it wasn’t a bike wreck that killed him. He just died.
In the five days since that has happened, I have sought counsel. To be the subject of someone’s conversation the moment they die is unique for all by the professional assassin. To add another layer of complexity, I never met him. We have talked on the phone, done zoom sessions, texted, emailed, ridden on zwift, spoke on F/B messenger, etc. Yet, we never had a face-to-face. Even as I type this, I breathe deeply, pondering the more profound meaning that indeed eludes me.
His funeral is this afternoon. His wife sent me their address and invited me to their house afterward. I am at a loss. I am not sure what I feel, let alone how she feels. This guy was REAL young, and he and his wife had not been married very long.
After the announcement on Saturday, I went on a 2-hour bike ride with Nelson, our foreign exchange student. I was abnormally quiet throughout the ride. Nelson is a great little cyclist, and his conversation never ends, so it wasn’t a big deal for me to sit there and ride. Yet, as we passed farms and fields in Stanly and Montgomery counties, I saw a deeper layer. My bike wreck from two years ago convinced me that I should never take riding a bike for granted. Starting with that ride, I chose not to take breathing for granted.
I leave to go to Spain in a week. I have been looking forward to this trip, and it will be the subject of a future blog. I suspect I won’t be talking about the sights and sounds this time. I will be connecting with people and find the air to be “most breathable.”
Even if it isn’t.