Those Were People Who…

This Sunday for many is the most important day of the year. Of course I’m speaking of Easter. For many others it’s just a holiday celebrated with no time off of work. Then there are others who bristle at such a thing and go out of their way to not pay attention to anything religion based. Fair enough, it’s a free country which I believe is one of our great strengths when put into proper perspectives. Only people comfortable with who they are can tolerate or accept others for who they are. At least that’s how I see it.

Regardless if your observance of Easter is religious or not. One thing is irrefutable. This Sunday is based on a death, and what that death means to us. I believe even for the most religious avoiding person alive there have been people we knew, loved, and more that were here today – then gone leaving us wondering why?

For some of us, a lifetime of reflection and wondering. All through life we remember them at certain times thinking “What did them dying really mean to me? Do I take something from this and apply it? Why them and not me when I was right there? Was I lucky? Was there a message to be taken for me from this tragedy?” I could go on, and on. I believe you get my point.

Over my life I’ve personally watched friends, family members, business associates, and more die in meaningless tragic ways more than I care to remember.

Growing up and through many of my adult years I watched from a friends store front on the main drag of our city as people we went to school with (both girls and guys)  as well as others we knew that were once considered pillars of the community, or a wealthy business owner, walk the boulevard like zombies turning tricks as prostitutes because they became what we referred to as “dopies.” (If you said that word to describe anyone, they knew exactly what you meant.) It was more than heartbreaking at times to say the least.

Then there are the ones that stamp time in one’s world. The one that you consistently think about throughout your life. The one that still to this day seems to have locked within it more insights, more reasons to keep going, reasons to make you think more deeply than you’ve ever thought about most other things. I have one. I believe many others do also.

We don’t talk about them to others. They seem to be just a little too private. However, in light of this holiday celebration I’ll share one of mine. Because, in the end. As much as it is about a death. It is about renewal of life. The life and the path – we the living – will now choose to walk.

In the late 70’s like most young adults I was searching for direction. I had grown up pretty fast, and doing it in an unforgiving city. I was then going on 19 years old, quit school, and had 3 years bar-tending as well as manager experience under my belt in one of the largest biker bars in the city. (drinking age was 18 back then and id’s were a joke) I had an apartment on top of the club, and couldn’t remember when I had spent more than 4 hours in actual day light. My world was basically – a gin mill.

I tried to break out of the lifestyle because instinctively I knew it would be the end of me sooner rather than later so I made arrangements with a family member to get out of the area, and I left.

I returned a few months later and was desperate for work. (I didn’t want to go back to bar-tending at that time.) A close friend of mine whose name was Raymond said, “Don’t worry. I’ll get you a job where I work and you’ll start Monday.” I said, “Ray, please don’t say something you can’t deliver. I really need work. Don’t get my hopes up saying it’s a given.” He shrugged me off saying, “I promise. Don’t worry.”  And he did. I started the following Monday.

Ray and I were the same age. We grew up together. Hung around through our teens, and Ray was one of the first of us to get married and start a family. The company he worked for was called Kenney & Co. I had never heard of it but who cared – it was a job!

Ray had worked there for a while and was looked upon as one of the family. He basically could do no wrong. (within reason of course) So much so that when Ray was involved in a traffic accident with the companies largest and most expensive truck. The owner gave him his new Cadillac to use for an errand to show he still had faith in him.

For the record this accident involved Ray rolling a loaded box truck packed with tons of cargo end over end 3 times (Yes, end over end!) on a major thoroughfare as he tried to avoid hitting another car. He walked away exiting the truck by walking through where the windshield once was. No one was injured. Not even Ray. The State Police all said something or someone had his back because they never seen such destruction and no one had as much as a scratch. In less than a year from this miracle – Ray would be dead.

As life takes its turns with all of us. Ray left the company for greener pasture. Like many who married so early troubles became commonplace and Ray and his wife split. And, as with most cases now a baby’s involved.

Ray’s wife started dating another person we all grew up with. (His house actually shared the same back fence as mine.) Ray for his own reasons was incensed about him being around his child. So much so many of us knew something was going to happen. Not if – but when.

As I said Ray and I were friends. He was asking me what I thought, what I would do. Should he confront the both of them with his thoughts. etc. This discussion came up this night because Ray was leaving the area in just two days. He had met a great girl and they were by all signs in love. They were moving to Florida as to start a new chapter in their lives.

They both had jobs lined up and more. Everything seemed to be breaking the right way. I kept telling Ray, “Don’t think about it. You’re going away in 2 days to start a new life. Put this out of your mind. Nothing good will come of it. Promise me Ray…I mean it…Promise me!” He said I was right, and promised me. We parted ways and said we’ll see each other tomorrow. Tomorrow came, but life would never be the same.

I guess his rage got the best of him because he went to where both his ex-wife, boyfriend, and baby were. And for reasons I won’t get into here, all I can say is there were words, an altercation, and in a moment of stupidity – Ray was dead. It still is without question one of the saddest, emotional, gut wrenching days or times I have ever been through to this day.

However, as much as times like this can be the saddest, it’s what you decide to do with that sadness that is the real question. For you see that job Ray obtained for me was the very company that allowed me to acquire most of the skills and attributes I applied over my business career.

Kenney & Co. was a meat company. And, although at the time I didn’t know the difference between hamburg and ground turkey. It was that very job he spoke on my behalf to be hired that launched my career before retiring at the top in that industry.

So in the light of this Sunday’s celebration. Whether you celebrate the Pentecost, or other ways. I would like to leave you with this thought. As much as we mark death, in the end it’s really all about life.

It doesn’t matter what path is opened. It’s meaningless unless you choose to walk it. Paths are about choice. And choosing is about living.

I’ll finish with something that reminded me of all this and made me reflect a couple of days ago. I was thinking about another friend who was also like a brother to me, but for reasons I can’t go into here is no longer around. He played in one of the bands that the singer/songwriter/author Jim Carroll used as support when he was touring.

I think it sums up things in way most of us feel, then just shake our head in dismay trying to figure out.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr