Once again, darkness comes, as night falls over the earth. I feel as if I am already in the dark; another sad event has brought the blackness in waves to wash over me.
We came close to forming a business partnership once, he and I. Bear owned a specialized music instrument company which sold vintage instruments online and we had done business before, but it was always me selling and him buying. This time, the gentle, likeable fellow, about the same age as I, was ready to take another step forward in our business relationship. He had been working out of his house and he needed a facility in which to restore the old instruments he was acquiring. I had just bought a different building and he had hopes that we could come to an agreement. After we talked about the income and growth potential for both of our companies and he looked over the physical layout, we agreed to take some time to think about it and then get back together to see if both of us were still interested.
It was fifteen years ago. I think that was the last time I actually saw my friend. I see him still in my mind, standing in the nearly empty back room, excitedly talking about the potential for a large workbench. He looks out the door and wonders about adding on warehouse space. It was not destined to be. Both of us were independent (perhaps a little stubborn, even) and wanted to keep control of our own businesses, not a good basis on which to start a partnership. A phone call a week later on my part, to decline, was met almost with relief, and by his kind and gentle suggestion that we should keep in touch. Except for one occasion very soon after that, we haven’t talked in almost fifteen years. I checked in on his website once in awhile and he seemed to be doing well. In my head, he still stands there, strong and young, and ready to take on the whole world.
The other day, I came across an instrument I was sure he would be interested in. In fact, I have been thinking of him frequently, as the last few months have brought a virtual influx of the vintage instruments he would have loved. Today, I picked up the phone and called his number, excited to talk with my friend again and tell him about this horn and others I just knew he would fall in love with. After a few rings, I heard a click on the other end and an old man, barely to be heard, answered shakily. I asked if I could speak to Bear, certain that this would be his dad. “This is he,” came the labored, painfully quiet answer. I wasn’t sure I had dialed the right number, but we talked anyway. I won’t bore you any more with our conversation, nor with the details of his illness and hospitalization. He fears he will never again return home. I’m confident he is right. I miss my friend already.
But, then again, I stop to consider that we are not the masters of our existence on this planet. I’m remembering a time, just over five years ago, when I was stricken with a serious case of vertigo. After two days in bed with no remedy for the world-spinning dizziness but to lie still with my eyes closed, the Lovely Lady insisted that I see the physician. I couldn’t even walk, needing a wheelchair to make my way down the hallway at the doctor’s office. After my appointment, I was wheeled out again by the nurse and an old friend, who worked in the office there, caught sight of me. Aghast at what she saw, and sure that I was dying, she called her husband to tell him that he needed to check on me right away. “He’s really in bad shape!” were her words to him. Needless to say, I recovered. My friend, on the other hand, was dead within a couple of months, an undiagnosed brain tumor wreaking its horrible damage before any treatment could save her.
You want guarantees? There are none. I laughed as a representative of my guitar supplier described the warranty for the guitars they just shipped to me last week. “Iron-clad” are the words he used to prop up the backing they would grant for their product. I think he expected the words to evoke the image of knights in shining armor riding to save my business reputation, should any problem with one of these fine instruments arise. Alas, I have seen companies come and go in my time in the business and the true meaning of the words “lifetime guarantee” dawns afresh each time. It is good for the lifetime of the company that backs it, not the lifetime of the customer buying the product, as most of us believe. There is no such thing as an iron-clad guarantee made by man.
Centuries ago, the strong-willed disciple, Peter, said the words, “All flesh is like grass and its beauty as the flowers in the grass.” He wasn’t the first one to say it. Others before him, just as cheerily, reminded us that the wind blows and the field which we bloomed in won’t even remember us. Here today–gone tomorrow. That’s our guarantee. The only variable in the guarantee is the question of when tomorrow will arrive. It could be fifty years away. Then again, it could be in the next instant.
It is easy to sink into depression, to become fatalistic, isn’t it? We’re all going to die anyway; what’s the use of even trying? Perhaps we could just be like a weed, instead of a flower. Not even a hint of beauty, nor joy. If we can’t be happy, we’ll make no one else happy.
I’m wondering if there may be more to this life than simply existing, though. Short-lived flowers though we may be, we have the opportunity, in this instant, to spread joy like an infection through those we come in contact with in this huge field. The bees are buzzing around, ready to take the pollen we are producing to other parts of the field. We can make a difference right now, right here. But we must do it right now. There is no time to waste in self-pity, no purpose to be served in staying in the shadows another moment.
I will admit that it is easy for me to become discouraged, to allow the blanket of darkness to wrap around and steal what time I actually do have away. What a waste that would be if I (and you) actually gave in to those urges. Out in the wide field of the world, the sun is shining and there is work to be done.
All is not dark; all is not gloom. Sadness comes and it goes. The great beauty which our Creator has instilled in His handiwork is not dimmed by the momentary darkness.
We even get a chance ourselves, to shine – here and there. I think I’m ready to spend a little time in the sunshine for a change.
Did you pack your sunscreen?
“‘It is not so dark here,’ said Theoden. ‘No,’ said Gandalf. ‘Nor does age lie so heavily on your shoulders as some would have you think.'”
(from “The Two Towers”~J.R.R.Tolkien~British author/scholar~1892-1973)
“Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ‘mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done.”
(Anna L Coghill~English poet/writer~1836-1907)
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© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.