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August 23, 2016

What we leave behind

candles

     A LONG time ago in my life, I jotted a one pager down and later posted it online. The time of putting it on paper would have to have been in the late 90’s and I posted it here in 2010. As I state in the story I don’t know that it was a real observation at the time, just something that struck my while cleaning up a broken coffee mug. I didn’t realize it at the time but the physical reminders we hang onto can be good and bad. As a kid, I always thought it was weird that my Aunt hung onto almost every card her kids ever made for her. Sure it made for one heck of a mess but she wouldn’t ever part with anything.

     Now I’m grown, seeing my red hair be replaced by more and more white. Pictures of my mother & father are like rare treasures.  A figurine my brother made for me when we were younger is precious too me. In fact, it’s so precious that it shares a shelf in my office dedicated to William. I’m paranoid about these things becoming damaged. They serve as a reminder of important events and people in my life.

     A while back I started losing interest in the tech world and started seeking skills that would actually be of benefit if I had to provide for my family beyond pounding on a keyboard. It may sound odd but it’s where I went for my mid-life evaluation. Not crisis … evaluation. In this process, I ran into a guy who was one of the most welcoming and encouraging guys I had known in a long time. We’d meet for breakfast and started talking website stuff but later would discuss faith, church, and eventually firearms. Hunting was something I’d never done growing up and while several of my extended family members had been around guns it wasn’t something in my wheelhouse. I was afraid of getting laughed at due to my lack of knowledge but James took his time and answered the thousands of questions I had, along with getting me plugged into a good group of level-headed experts. I wanted to understand mechanics, the “how” behind a semi-automatic rifle worked. He strongly encouraged building my own to help both in the education but also in getting to know the rifle. He said it was like Lego’s for grown-ups. Took a while to buy all the parts but one night we got together at one of his buddies houses and we built an AR-15. It was mine, I knew how to break it down, clean it, what made it work; I knew it inside and out.

     I took a break from Social media and through some job changes, James and I no longer worked together.  He’d still answer any questions I sent, we just didn’t see each other as often. I was totally caught off guard when I got a message one February morning that James had passed away. I was pissed as hell at what I thought was a sick joke. I reactivated my social accounts only to have that hard truth confirmed. My mind went to his wife and his boys, his friends and family. I was stunned. A lot of us were. Weeks went by and as questions came up in my mind I realized that the person I would go to was no longer on the other end of the phone.

     It hit me on July 4th. My kids were laughing at the racket the neighbors were making with their fireworks and I commented off the cuff, “I’ll make some noise”. I took two steps toward the house to retrieve my rifle and I was stopped by the memories of my lost friend. Another co-worker from the office would invite me out to a local range to send some lead down the field but I’d always find some excuse to not show up. The more I thought about it, I just couldn’t do it. It’s not that I was suddenly anti-gun, I just couldn’t bring myself to fire a rifle that my buddy helped me create. I thought it was silly, and kept telling myself that I was being stupid for feeling weird about it. But I never could shake the feeling and thus the gun sat in its case for months; unopened, unused.

     Finally, I decided to find it a good home. I chatted with another buddy of mine about what legal steps did I need to take to make certain that I was doing everything within the guidelines of the law.  Now, after several weeks, she is in a good home and with someone who will treat the rifle with the care and respect that it deserves. I still think it is odd to assign a personality to an inanimate object, but I can’t think of it in any other sense. I’ll eventually build another. I love what my buddy who I discussed legalities with, “It’s not that you don’t want to shoot AR’s, you just don’t want to shoot that AR.” He was right.

     Maybe it’s a mug, maybe a clay figurine, a picture, or even an AR-15 rifle; in the end, we have no idea of the impact and full scope of our lives. As we make this journey with our fellow travelers, we leave behind in our wake a full spectrum of emotions. Like a water-logged branch, our emotions permeate the inanimate objects and locations … only for those things to take on a life of their own that lives long after the water has dried out and only driftwood remains. What we leave behind reminds us of those shared memories and journies. Some you can bring in and turn into pieces of art, others are best left on the bank of the sea.

     If you’re struggling with depression or low self-esteem, please reach out for assistance. There are countless programs available and you have no idea how much you mean to the people around you.

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