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Memorial Day

Posted 05-27-2014 at 08:49 AM by mridenour

I know that the Memorial Day holiday is traditionally focused on our military and rightfully so. The men that have died in service of our country deserve a special place in our hearts and lives. My favorite book says that the act of laying down one's life for his friends is the greatest act of love. I don't think many would disagree.

Regardless of how I personally feel about any this war or that war or the next war, the fact that there are people in this country willing to risk it all and lay it all on the line for me and my family is humbling.

But this Memorial Day went beyond those people that have worn the uniforms of sacrifice for this country. It was filled with memories of an old friend not so long gone.

It was about this time a couple Memorial Days ago that I received the news that my most reliable and dearest friend had a thing called 'glioblastoma'. To say that his odds of survival weren't very good was an understatement. He simply was NOT going to survive. All the king's horses and all the king's men were not going to make George healthy again.

I had a little over a year left to spend with my buddy...if things went well. 'Well' is a relative term. Lasting longer when a tumor is destroying your body may not feel so 'well' to a person going through a painful process of dying. George often just wanted it all to be over and done.

I wouldn't call George a fly fisherman although he loved to fly fish. He was more of an outdoorsman. He was comfortable being out on a lake floating jugs for flatheads or finessing a trout with a dry fly. He could sit in the woods for hours with a bow waiting for a whitetail to unwittingly come within range. He could camp in the worst conditions and be happy as he could be that he was experiencing God's creation no matter what it happened to look like that particular day.

George was a carpenter and he was always ready to help. He helped me more than anyone else I ever knew. I'm a stubborn knucklehead and I tend to not ask for help. He could see when I needed help and put himself there helping even if I didn't think I needed it.

George did more for more people than anyone I ever knew. He was unashamedly transparent and open to everyone he ever met. I never was. I was closed off and isolated and for most of my life, George was the only one that had a clue what was going on inside my hard head.

I remember wading miles of trout stream one day with George. We caught one lousy fish. But we fished side by side talking openly about things I would never share with anyone else. The sound of running water and the rhythm of casting makes a great backdrop for allowing the secrets of the soul to escape the dank recesses inside and hit the fresh air.

I've never dealt with loss in the right ways. My first inclination upon the news of George's condition was to bolt and run. I couldn't bear to see what was going to happen to my friend. I wanted to remember going to the same church, getting in trouble in grade school together, walking down the halls of junior high to visit the principal again, chasing deer around the woods, building things and most of all fishing.

My wife kept telling me that I needed to go see George. I did. I visited him in the hospital when he had surgery to appease his family in hopes that he would live just a little longer. It was devastating. My strong and courageous friend was weak and scared. I wanted to run away.

There comes a time in life to stop running away. I had to make some big changes in my life in order to not run this time. It is a long story. I won't tell it now. I didn't know how to be what my friend needed me to be. All I knew was that if I ran now, all he had done for me for all those years would mean nothing and I would carry around a lot of regret for the rest of my days.

Most of the time I just sat in a chair in his house next to his bed. We laughed about the stupid things I used to do. We remembered the good times and the bad. He told me things that he couldn't tell his family because he didn't want to upset them even more than they already were. I got over my stupid macho nature and told him I loved him every single day. It was the truth. Why keep it to myself?

The last time I took him fishing we got in my truck and he explained to me that if anything happened, not to worry. I was to just let him go and not fight the inevitable. It was the strangest thing I had ever heard as I started an outing to go fishing. He cried a little when he couldn't tie his knots and rig his outfit. I did it for him and told him it was the least I could do after all he had done for me. Once again, we didn't catch a single fish but he was having a great time out there in the cold winter weather.

This Memorial Day opened some wounds and made me feel some things. It was hard. It is still hard this morning. But it is real and the pain reminds me of a great man that I was lucky enough to know for 45 years of my life. Ironically, the loss of George coincides with the discovery of myself. I am no longer a plastic image of what I want to be. I'm a real, live human. I am more than what I was for the first half-century of my struggle to survive on this planet. George taught me a lot as he died about living.

It seems I have only scratched the surface of this story but at the same time it seems that I may have said too much. I'm sorry my friend is gone but I'm also sorry that you didn't get to know him. Maybe, if I can get this life thing right, through me, you can.
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  1. Old Comment
    repperson29's Avatar
    thanks for this mike, we talk often through PM but i rarely get on the computer to check blog posts and whatnot and just stumbled on this one.
    Posted 07-28-2014 at 02:37 PM by repperson29 repperson29 is offline

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