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Mortality

Why is it that I always find myself leaving a gravesite with the same overshadowing regret?

There was so much more about the deceased that I just didn’t know. How could I? I never made a real effort to find out. Has living in the Information Revolution given me the “Google” mindset that anything and everything I need to know is just a few keystrokes away?

What about relationships? What would I ask someone today, if I knew they’d be gone tomorrow?

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“…Ten years after my grandfather’s death, I became overwhelmed by an unfamiliar emotion. While retelling one of his stories, I realized I’d forgotten a few of the details.

Nobody else was familiar with his tale and he was no longer alive to explain what took place. An empty feeling came over me as I realized, that information was lost forever. In that instant I grasped the fearful reality of being left behind. The emotion caught me off guard and I never wanted to experience it again.

I saw that same emotion in Jacob one day when he was around nine years old.  I took him along with me to an area on the Kankakee River I had not been to before. I wanted to check out the spot because I’d heard stories of walleye holes that produced good-sized fish. We parked alongside an abandoned railroad embankment and had to hike a good way down to the river.

As we walked away from my truck I was struck by this premonition that I needed to tell Jake what he should do if something happened to me. So I explained to him that we were in an area where there was no one around and he would need to come back to the road to wave down a passing car to ask for help.

As I was speaking, I noticed his eyes welling up and realized I was scaring him. I was putting an enormous amount of responsibility on a boy who looked to me as his source of strength and protection.

I said, “Jake, are you all right?”

Trying not to show weakness, he swallowed hard and shook his head yes. But he meant no.

I had looked at this as a teaching moment, but Jacob saw it from a perspective that he’d probably never considered before; his dad could die and leave him behind. I was just as important to him as he was to me.

“You know what?” I said. “I don’t feel like fishing anymore. How about you?”

He shook his head no.

I said, “How about we just go back to the truck and drive around out here in the country?”

He shook his head yes.

Jake was quiet the rest of the day. He’d stare out the window and then every so often he would turn and stare at me. Mortality is a hard thing to ponder at nine years old.

It wasn’t any easier at thirty-nine. With Jake dead and me a wreck, I opted to show strength instead of weakness. I decided I needed to strike out at someone…”

An excerpt from:

~ Back to Tonic—Chapter Six—Nothing New Under The Sun—Kiepura, Gene

Photo credit: Shakespearesmonkey / Foter / CC BY-NC

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