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Sometimes even the tiredest, tackiest clichés, have a quiet current of truth running underneath them. This morning, I’m thinking of the still-popular, though completely threadbare, This is the first day of the rest of your life. Given the right set of circumstances, even that wheezy old chestnut can ring true.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, June 18 five years ago was, indeed, the first day of the rest of my life. If you’ve hit the About Me link at the top of the page, and read my brief bio, you sort of know this already. Here’s a little more detail.

Five years ago today, I was in Atlanta attending a memorial service for a guy named Mike who grew up two houses down the street from me. He and I were in the same kindergarten class at Margaret Mitchell Elementary School, and we remained friends all the way through college and into the years beyond. Though the inevitable turns along life’s path had carried the two of us in quite different directions, we never completely lost touch.

Mike was pretty crazy –­ even crazier than I was ­– when we were young hellions, drinking, doing drugs, partying. And yet, even though he often did his best to hide it, he was a good man. Kind and thoughtful when you least expected it, and, though combative at times, loyal to his friends.  Mike was also very, very smart. And, especially in later years, but even when we were young, he was an avid seeker of truth.  He was only 54 when he died. Much too young.

Although the loss of this enduring, if somewhat distant friendship, didn’t affect my day-to-day existence, it was the pebble that started the avalanche that changed my life forever.

At the memorial service, I met-up with a circle of old friends who had known Mike through the years – from kindergarten on out. After the service we ate and drank (drank rather a lot) together and recalled the past. It was a lovely experience. Just what each of us needed. But, driving back home to Nashville the next day, I began to feel that something was wrong. There was a gaping hole in my life, that I couldn’t explain, but also couldn’t deny.

Among the old friends at the service, was a guy named Bill, an Episcopal priest. Within hours of getting back home, I had emailed Bill asking for help. With the exception of weddings and funerals, I hadn’t darkened the door of a church in nearly 40 years and hadn’t wanted or needed to. Suddenly, I felt as if I were gasping for air.

Over the next several years, mostly via email, Bill helped me find my spiritual anchor. This anchor gave me the courage, as well as the imperative, to look for myself among the weeds alongside the road. With the help of an amazing therapist named Dodge, I was able – three years later – to come out to myself, to my wife, to my sons and finally to the rest of the world.

I couldn’t have done this without God, or without Bill and Dodge. But the starting point was that memorial service five years ago today.

I don’t have a clue why this happened exactly the way it did. Maybe it was being forced to consider my own mortality – up close. Maybe it was being able to recall the goodness I had seen in the life of my departed friend. Maybe it was remembering how desperately he sought truth and transcendence – and how lax I had been in that regard. Maybe I was just tired of carrying everything on my back.

Don’t know. Doesn’t matter. Five years down the road, here I am. Sometimes I wonder if Mike knows about all this, but that’s something else I can’t know.

So,  this morning, on my five-year anniversary, I say – Thank you God. Thank you Bill. Thank you Dodge.

Thank you Mike.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristy permalink
    06/18/2010 2:51 PM

    OK, I’m sitting in my office weeping. I was just thinking abt Mike this morning washed in the familiar agony of missing him desperately. Michael was an avid seeker of the truth. He aanted to know what the heck he was doing here! For years he had loved living in his spirit much more than in his physical body. Do you know he chanted 4 hours a day? I’m not surprised he left when he got the chance, even tho I begged him not to leave me alone with the rest of our crazy family. So, I take comfort in the message he sent me on the third day of his coma. I was going out to investigate the accident scene (that’s what I’ve done for a living for the past 35 years). Mom was with me. We were about 10 miles outside of Houston on an interstate when I suddenly felt a wave of what I can only describe as perfect love wash thru the middle of me. Someone whispered silently but distinctly, “Everything is going to be alright”. I think Mike was probably sitting in the back seat just taking it all in and smiling and loving us, and later he decided to spend a little time with one of his oldest friends. Poke, poke, poke. Love you.

    • 06/19/2010 11:10 AM

      Thanks. Glad you’re here, reading.

      It all means something – even when we don’t know what that is until later, if ever.

  2. Linda permalink
    06/18/2010 4:01 PM

    Happy Anniversary to you.
    Is that the road less traveled? I want to go there Right Now.

    • 06/18/2010 7:04 PM

      Not sure how traveled this road is. Less than it ought to be, maybe. I’m glad I made the turn and went down it. It’s better now that I’m here.

      Probably true of lots of less traveled roads.

  3. nanci Reese permalink
    06/18/2010 6:59 PM

    Dear David,
    I can understand why your friends death created the pebble. In Jean Shinado Bolen’s “Close to the Bone”( It is about people with cancer and terminal illnesses) There is one point in the book that talks about what happens after all the busyiness(SP) of chemo or radiation etc. She talks about really looking at your life and asking yourself questions like do I really want to do whatever work I am doing? What do I really want? And which really surprised me and has been very helpful is that if you have a friend even if it is a long term friend and they have freaked out about the cancer or if when you talk to them they drain you. During my cancer ordeal which is sort of still going on since I have not regained my normal energy and still have “chemo brain” people hesitated to tell me their problems since mine seemed so much worse. I was “”PLEASE tell me your problems- I am tired of mine.” But there was this one friend I have had for 24 years and she drains me after 5 minutes of talking to her. Bolen suggests sitting down with the person and saying nicely we need to part ways. I haven’t been able to do that but I have been able to set certain boundaries which I know make her mad but that’s tough. also cancer has made me feel like each day is precious and you need to tell those you love that you love them. I feel more driven as an artist and my art work has taken as subtle jump. Because I know and have always known that Art was my God given talent and I feel so fabuous when I do it.
    Also about 5 years ago a little voice told me “go to church”. And I was ” what the f….- me go to church!!!” But I listened to that voice and have found a fabulous community.
    I know I am a little off track here but I think you get the idea. I am in no way comparing cancer to coming out. But do you understand the paralells?
    I am glad Bill was there for you.
    LOVE and HUGS,

  4. Marcia permalink
    06/21/2010 5:36 PM

    Oh David! Tears are streaming but I am so incredibly grateful to you for including Michael in your beautiful writings. There is NO doubt in my mind that Mike was with you during your struggles these past 5 years. He is the most spiritually tuned in soul I have ever known and I don’t expect to ever come across another like him. A soul like that just doesn’t die. He’s still watching over and caring for those he loved. Three years ago I had knee surgery. A few days after the procedure I felt very out of sorts. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem. At midnight, while my family slept, I paced around the house trying to decide what I should do. The silence was broken when I heard two (not one) voices SCREAM, “go to the hospital”!! I didn’t need to wonder what to do anymore. Without a doubt, the voices were those of my brothers, Mike AND Tim. I woke my husband and told him I needed to go to the hospital. He took me to the ER where multiple pulmonary emboli were discovered in my right lung. I was admitted and treated…and obviously, I lived. I am very, very lucky to be alive!! I told this story to a priest friend who nodded and said, “it was the Holy Spirit”. I said, “no it was Michael and Tim”. Of course he had to have the last word and he said, “The Holy Spirit allowed you to hear the voices”. Okay. Michael is now working with the Holy Spirit and guiding us in our lives. I’m thrilled to know he had a hand in your journey!

    • 06/21/2010 6:07 PM

      I never figured Mike for being in cahoots with the Holy Spirit, but the way things have rolled out for me, I’m not doubting anything. Except maybe what priests tell me. I get my ass to church EVERY Sunday. But I bring my brain in there with me, like the good Episcopalian I aspire to be.

      Glad you, Mike and TIm are still with us.

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