Monday, November 14, 2011

A Day In June.

I'm writing this on a cold November morning. We've had snows, but like most first snows, even the ones that dump a foot-thick blanket of heavy, wet snow, they've largely disappeared in the Indian Summer days that followed.

This morning is cold, though. The sky is cloudy, but not ungraciously so; there's promise of the occasional beam of sunlight to break through. Still, my mind is not on today, with the prospect of tea or hot chocolate to cheer me. It is, instead, on a day in early June of this year.

"What is so rare as a day in June?" I don't know who first spoke that line, but if there was ever a June day that fit the description, it was that day.

I drove south by west, skipping the main roads to take the lesser-used roads. I was ahead of my time, and the more relaxed pace suited me. The sun was warm, with the window rolled down to catch the cooling breeze, it was altogether fine. Through the open window I heard the song of red-winged blackbird, and meadow lark. It was a fine day.

As I turned to head west on this back-road trip, I saw Long's Peak, still patched heavily with white spring snow, in front of me. If I hadn't an errand to fulfill, I would have given in to the temptation to just head to the hills and enjoy the day in frivolous recreation. It was certainly a day made for it. It was a perfect day for a June wedding.

I glanced at my coat sleeves, and my free hand rose the knot of my tie, to loosen it a bit. There would be an opportunity to straighten it when I got to my destination.

When I was a few blocks away, I turned up a different street and drove by the local marble orchard. If you are not familiar with the term, a 'marble orchard' is a cemetery, so-called because of all the marble monuments that sprout out of the ground. This one was well-kept, and had the occasional visitor, leaving flowers and respects. Some do this out of a sense of duty, I expect; most do so out of love.

After driving by, I found a place to turn around and resumed my journey. The end was in sight: the church steeple was just ahead.

I found that I was early, even with my little side trip, so I waited in the parking lot until I saw a familiar face or two on their way in. I got out, straightened my tie, and went in myself.

It was cool inside, and the group was subdued. I found a seat near the back, myself being only barely acquainted with this group.

I forget the hymns we sung; they were from a different songbook than the one I grew up with. All about the far distant land where everything was light and peace.

Certainly, the guest of honor had found peace of a sort. For we had come to sing his last praises, our last love song, in fact, to him. His family was strong in their witness of their love, and that he had been met by family members who had gone on before.

And, while I empathized with them, I couldn't help thinking, "What a waste." Not of the efforts of the people in that church, certainly not. But the waste of this young life, the young man all of three months away from celebrating his twentieth birthday. His life, taken by his own hand.

In many ways, he was a cipher to me. We were on different work schedules, though on the same team. I was always rushing to get my set-ups for my job done before I had to punch the clock; not a lot of time for socializing past the automatic 'Hello, how are you?", and those mostly to familiar faces. I keep thinking, if I'd known a little more about him, talked to him. Asked the follow up question: "No, really, how are you doing?", that young man might still be alive today.

I have no idea what his despair involved; I shall not speculate. I only know that I've been deep down lost in my own despair, to the point of walking away from life. Had I known him better, I might have been able to say to him, in some way, "You can rise above this."

Instead, I walked to the grave of a young man, in that cemetery I visited earlier, on a most rare, fine June day. A day that he should have been thinking, "Maybe I'll go fishing."

That is what life is about. Not going fishing, necessarily. But choosing. Choosing to continue, to fight the fight, to enjoy the living of life.

He could have done so much, so much more.

I could have done so much more to help.