I saw a photo of Johnny Cline yesterday...and I cried.
I have always been a passionate man. Too passionate, some of the time. My emotions, however, have been very raw since the heart attack...as if someone had flayed my skin and exposed all of the emotional nerves. Still...that picture of Johnny made me cry.
The technological age we live in is amazing. I just wrote to a long lost friend who is literally half way around the world. Amazing. More amazing is how we reconnected.
I went on my Facebook page the other day, which is something that I rarely do. On the sidebar it had one of those "you might like to add" suggestions for a friend. I usually ignore those, but this time the name caught my eye. It was someone I hadn't seen in 28 years...not since my ten year high school reunion. I don't know how their software works...we had no friends in common...I never put down my old school affiliations...but I hit add. Before I had left the page, a new one popped up. A young lady I had gone to school with. So, I added her as well. Since then, a number of old high school friends have been added as friends...all in the space of a few days...which brings me to Johnny.
I went on to each person's page and looked at photos. The picture of Johnny was on one. Johnny from over thirty years ago. Johnny and I had gone to school together all the way through high school. Played sports together. We kind of separated in high school...nothing ominous or bad...just the normal parting that friends do as they divide into groups with more likes and connections. A short time after we graduated, I heard about Johnny. I don't remember how long after, maybe a year or two. He had passed away. Tragically...and far, far too young. I was sad when I heard about it. That was long ago. But, when I saw his picture yesterday...
Memories are a funny thing. Things get frozen in time in our minds, like snapshots...or, perhaps, more like stills from a motion picture. When I saw that picture of Johnny, I was flooded with snapshots of him. Snapshots of a very young Johnny, from long, long, ago. Grade school. Youth football. He was always so handsome. And that smile of his ? Well, just ask the ladies...he could charm the honey from bees with that smile. So many memories of a life cut tragically short. I wept for him...and for all of those I knew must have missed him terribly all of these years.
But it also made me think...what kind of snapshots do we leave to others?
Those of you who read my work know I like to tell stories to illustrate a point. True stories work the best...even if those stories are painful personally. So...
It was over twenty years ago. My wife was expecting Lacy. We were living in a townhouse in Huntington Beach. We had taken our girls somewhere, and had just gotten home. Our doberman, Alex, had been left behind with the screen open to the balcony in case of bathroom emergency. Alex, as great a dog as she was, was also very temperamental. She got mad if we left her for too long. If she felt miffed at our leaving, she just might not go out on the balcony to take care of business. Which is what we came home to...dog poop and pee right at the front door.
I was a much younger man. Didn't realize then how mean and bitter I could be. I picked her up and carried her out to the balcony, cussing and swearing the whole way. Every other word was stupid f%$#ing bitch. Alex was big for a dobie, over ninety pounds. But, like I said, I was a much younger man. I picked her up by the loose skin dobie's have on their backs. Hung her over the balcony...cussing and threatening to drop her for her inability to go to the bathroom right. Now, I wouldn't really have dropped her. I was just mad. And that's where the incident would have stayed, probably forgotten, except...
We moved about a month later. We were moving into a house in Orange for Lacy's birth. More room for everybody, and a yard for the kids and the dog. Our downstairs neighbors helped a little with the move, and that's when they told us this story:
They had visitors a while back. A young married couple. It was the night I hung Alex over the balcony. The couple never saw our dog...but they did see my very, very pregnant wife go up the stairs before my outburst. The young husband was convinced I was a crazed psychotic, threatening my pregnant wife for her incontinence. He wanted to stay the night in a motel...his wife wouldn't go. Our neighbors had assured him I was yelling at the dog. He didn't believe them. He was so certain that I was going to come down in the middle of the night and kill them all in their sleep that he stayed up all night...in his car...facing our townhouse so he could see me coming...with the biggest butcher knife our neighbors had grasped tightly in his hands. They left the next morning. He wouldn't stay another night.
Our neighbors laughed about it. So did my wife. I was embarrassed, but I laughed along with them. After all, you have to be able to laugh at yourself, right?
I've retold that story numerous times as an example of the impact our actions can have on others. Everyone always laughs...it is a funny story. But...
Today is Easter...or Paschal. Passover. The day we celebrate Resurrection. New life. New hope. And it occurred to me that the story has a far deeper meaning than I had thought before. You see, we all leave snapshots with people. Not just strangers, but also the ones we love. Those snapshots are all that people have once we are out of their lives, whether that is from distance...or time...or death.
What kind of snapshots do you want to leave people with?
The snapshot I left that man with is not a good one. However, neither is the one that I left those neighbors with. It breaks my heart, especially at this point in my life, to think of how many people I have left with bad images over the years. Not just strangers...but also people I care about. People I love. I've vowed to try and change that.
I believe in the Resurrection. I believe in new life. In hope.
I would encourage each of you that read this to re-examine your lives...your hearts. Please don't be like me. Make sure that you leave good snapshots with people. Especially those you love.
You see, there is always hope.
I saw a photo of Johnny Cline yesterday...and I wept. But...I also changed because of it. For the better, I hope. I changed because of the impact of a photo of a friend...long since gone...but a friend who still had the ability to help me change...even from beyond the grave.
Thank you Johnny. I pray you are finally at peace. You deserve it.
I will see you again...someday soon.
And...I look forward to seeing that handsome smile.
Tell my family in Paradise with you that I said Hi.
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