Don’t you know that you are a shooting star?
I think every once in a while, when we have a bad day, it’s like God kickin’ us in the butt saying: ‘“Hey, pay attention. Things might get interesting.’”
I’ve talked before in this column about my theories. This week’s theory goes like this: No matter how bad a day you’re having, someone out there is guaranteed to be having a worse time.
Some days I sit at my desk and I’m brooding about my ‘bad’ day so far. I’m fuming over a paper cut, a bad hair day, or about how I forgot to eat breakfast this morning.
I’m feeling pretty low, then a co-worker walks and tells me about their bad day so far, which is way worse than mine. And I’m thinking, ‘“Okay, so my hair doesn’t look that bad. I think the cut is starting to heal, and it’s almost lunch, so forget about breakfast.’”
I got a kick from God two weekends ago. A friend from back home called and said, ‘“I’ve got some bad news’…’” Calls that start out like that are never good. And this one wasn’t any different.
A kid we grew up with, a guy named Jamie, died the day before. I’d known him my whole life, we went to the same church; we ran in the same circle of jocks in high school. He was labeled ‘gifted’ as an elementary school student. My family even bought our Christmas trees from his grandparent’s tree farm, where the entire family pitched in during the season.
Jamie was captain and quarterback of the football team his senior year. He was a nice looking kid, usually with a cheerleader on his arm.
We ended up at the same college. He was even my neighbor one year. My roommates and I lived upstairs in this crappy two-story ramshackle house that had been split up into apartments, and he lived downstairs.
He was one of the good ol’ boys for whom college didn’t really work out and he ended up as a construction worker back in our hometown.
And one night they found him dead in a convenience store bathroom with a syringe at his feet. Jamie was 24 years old.
It’s been two weeks now, and I just can’t get it out of my head. We weren’t that good of friends. I think the thing that is sticking with me is there are 25 other guys I know back home just like him.
Minutes before I got that call, I was folding clothes thinking about the new car we were looking at. In an instant the new car was meaningless.
Each time a death strikes someone I know, I think, ‘“I’m going to remember this; how it feels right now. I’m going to remember the fragility of life.’”
But then I go back. I relapse into the silly things of life. I start worrying about the dirty apartment, about paying bills or if the cat will be okay after eating soap (don’t ask).
After that call I thought about how we often put off things until tomorrow: vacations, family time, or relaxation. Was Jamie thinking about tomorrow when he pushed open that stall door? Was the truck driver who found him thinking of anything other than getting his load to the next town? What was Jamie’s older sister, who was waiting on him at the gas station, thinking? Was she angry that he wasn’t on time to meet her?
People will say, ‘“Oh, that’s terrible about Jamie.’” I think it’s only terrible if no one learns anything from it.
What would Jamie say to people now? I think he’d say to laugh a little more often, enjoy your friends, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you get in over your head. Maybe he’d say to just live each moment, not looking toward the next.
Here’s where it gets really interesting: In the syringe next to Jamie, they found a reddish liquid, identified as Methadone, a drug used to wean people off harsher drugs. A doctor had prescribed it to him. That means Jamie was ‘— most likely ‘— getting cleaned up.
He was 24 years old; he was trying to start over. He’d just enlisted in the Army, and now he’s in that cemetery above the little white church where we started out all those years ago.