A great man died not too long ago. They cooked him up and put what was left in a box with a big picture of what he looked like when he was so full of life. Humans have some strange traditions. This happened yesterday.
The box and the picture rested before a pious stage, in front of hundreds of humans who’d come to say goodbye. His wife and children were right up front. Off to the side sat and stood over one hundred men in the uniform that the great man in the box once wore. A uniform that I myself might be wearing soon, as my father did for most of his life.
But that great man is now a dead man. Many would say that great men die every day, and maybe they do. I just never knew all those other ones. I knew this one, though he probably wouldn’t even recognize me today. I was just a kid when I met him and haven’t seen him for years. I had hardly heard about him getting sick but it happened just the same. It went quickly. Poison, you see, that he got helping to clean out that pile of rubble that killed so many over a decade ago. If you’ve been paying attention, you’d know that stuff has still been killing people years since those buildings collapsed.
This great man was not even the only one I’ve know in my life to be killed by the rubble, in one way or another.
But to us living, the death of a man such as this begs questions. In fact, it demands certain questions about our lives and our legacies. After having been to a few such events this year, I’ve run myself through the ringer of what all this life business means. It’s sad for me to admit, but I’ve been going about parts of it all the wrong way. Perhaps the greatest issue I’ve found myself falling into is wishing I could go back to change something. Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “well Brian, doesn’t everyone wish that they could go back to fix something, or stop themselves or someone else from doing something?”
And I would have to tell you that you are right. Even among the greatest of men and women, I don’t believe a single one lived a life without the tiniest regret. But my particular issue has to do particularly with me and this inability I have had to see the present because I’m too stuck on something behind me. It was such a perspective that plagued me until quite recently and although I keep wishing I could go back, I know it would be for naught.
But cheer up gang, I’m not here to be grim because that is not how I choose to deal with such business anymore. I was brought up to deal with death through celebrating life, so that’s what I do. And after years of conditioning myself otherwise, I have broken that whole deal about wishing for the past. Although I’m not quite a perfect practitioner, I am certainly putting forth all the effort I can muster away from wasting time and wishing away the present and future for what has already been.
Does that mean things I used to have will be gone forever? No, it does not. Or at least I believe. We can’t go back, this much I know is true. But we can go forward and anything in the future is possible, or at least the dream of it is.
I have regret, trust me, I do. I used to be ruled by my regret. Yet, I’m too young of a man to let that go on any longer. Sure, happiness is an abstract concept and based totally on conditions but that in no way makes it so far-fetched that it’s out of reach. It’s only out of reach if you make it out of reach. I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve played that card and it holds nothing but emptiness. Great men do not stand in the way of their own happiness. I want to be a great man. I have to be, as I was told many a time yesterday by all those men in uniform, I have very big shoes to fill when my turn comes. And here it is, comin’ around the bend.