(Originally posted on the website Heron Flight)
The famous German poet, Rilke, said that death is one of our best friends, since he teaches us how to live. (I stole that from a girl that I “almost” know.)
But what is death?
The Christian influence in my life tells me it is the passage to a life eternal, a state of bliss, a place where there is no pain, no tears, no suffering. It is a place of reward and blessing, a place of forgetfulness of the world’s tragedies. It is a place only for “the faithful.”
The mystic in me says it is merely a transition to the next phase of whatever this is that “I am.” It is nothing to fear, the awakening into something, possibly, a bit better than what I experience in whatever it is that I currently “am.” It is a continuation, not a destination.
The computer programmer in me, logically, informs me that it is a “division by zero,” an “abend,” a “fatal error.” Does not compute. Does not compute.
The human in me shouts that it is that which questions, “How can ‘civilized’ human beings unleash an explosive powerful enough to wipe out nearly the entire population of Hiroshima in a split second?” It is the sister question, “How can they do it again on Nagasaki just three days later??” How? How? How?
The alcohol in me tells me… nothing.
What is death? Doesn’t this question beg the question, “What is life?”
The Bible, in the book/epistle of James describes life as a “vapor,” which appears only for a “little while,” then is gone.
Translation: “It is the smoke of your cigarette, which disappears into the night air,” possibly leaving a bad taste in your mouth.
What is that “little while?” What IS it really?
It is color, peace, love, affection, sincerity, feeling, empathy, beauty, sensitivity, caressing, holding, protecting, enjoying, forgiving, tolerating, teaching, helping, encouraging, inspiring, congratulating, creating, sharing, embracing, comforting, light, truth, mercy, discussion, reason, inclusiveness, oneness, acceptance, flavor, enhancement, addition, supplementation, assistance, forbearance, construction, orchestration, blending, hand holding, bowing, respect, pouring forth, spreading out, lifting up, enveloping, making whole.
It is persistently asking, “What positive elements can I add to the above list?”
Life IS up to ME.
No, this does not fully answer the question begged. But, it’s a start.
(Originally posted on the website Heron Flight)
I miss my dad.
Is that okay to say? Can I throw that right out there to you?
It’s been over a year since he died. But hell, I haven’t even begun to face it. I don’t want to face it. I don’t want to think about the fact that he is beyond reach, incommunicado, in the nether world or higher plane, beyond the reach of my longing for him.
Why does it have to be that way? Why is death such a complete separator? Oh, I know all the religious/theological reasons. I know the physical/biological reasons. Blah, blah, blah. Yadda, yadda, yadda. What I want to know is why does it have to be this way? Why do I, Sam Snyder, Jr., have to be separated from my dad? Why? Why does my experience of life with him have to abruptly come to an end? Why does it have to be over and final when I was not nearly ready for it to be over?
Do you know what it’s like to miss his voice on the phone saying, “Hey, Bub, how ya doin’?” or “Hey, Sammy, when ya gonna come see me?” Do you know how it feels to no longer get calls at 6 AM saying, “How about meeting me for breakfast over at Doug’s place? Let me buy you a coffee before you have to go to work.” Don’t you know that I would pay a million dollars and give every drop of blood in my veins to hear his voice on the phone saying, “I’m coming by with donuts for you and the kids before they have to go to school”? I mean, for God’s sake, I’m only 43-years-old. I potentially have a lot of years to go without those phone calls!
But do I really have a long time to go? Do any of us? Do any of us realize how short time really is? Do any of us really feel the brevity of our lives? Do any of us really embrace the fact that our time on this earth, in our relations, among our families and friends, is so, so laughably short? We put off. We procrastinate. We say we’ll tell our kids tomorrow that we love them, that we are proud of them, that we can’t bear the thought of ever being separated from them. But we die one day short of that tomorrow and never tell them, never hug them, never look them in the eyes and say, “If I could I would sacrifice every cell in my body, every pulse of my heart, every instant of desire in my eternal being to see you happy and to know that you will forever rise above death in this world and the next.”
Hug your kids TODAY! Go to them NOW! Take them by their collars and press your nose against theirs and say, “I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!” Yes, they will think you are crazy! Yes, they will complain that you are blocking their view of their video game. But goddamn it! (Forgive me, Lord.) They will remember you when they are 43 and they will cling to you! They will remember your old ruddy face and the passion in your eyes when they sit down in their sadness and miss you. You will have given them something substantial to hold onto.
So, do you know what I just did? No, of course you don’t. You are not mind readers! (Are you?) Thanks to the modern technology of the day in which we live our minuscule lives, I just picked up my cell phone and sent a text message to all five of my children at the same time. That’s right. I might be a father with grown children, but I know my technology and I am hip enough to use it! I just sent a message to my kids stating, “I just realized that I can send a text message to all 5 of my kids at the same time! So, I just want to say that I love u and…” Wait. Why should I tell you exactly what I said? Why not let you think of your own message to say to your kids? Yeah. Express it in your own words. Let your kids remember your own words, your voice, your heart.
So, what has all this been about? Well, I miss my dad. The circumstances of our lives pushed us apart more than they brought us together. I regret that I didn’t find a way to reverse that situation sooner. I regret that I didn’t have the strength enough to weep over his poor suffering forehead when the cancer was consuming his life (as I am weeping now). I regret that I didn’t take more of an interest in the things he was interested in. (I could have gone to more NASCAR races with him, or sat in his living room watching the Chicago Bears lose again, or met up with him for breakfast more times than I did.) And I bet all that I own that there is someone in your life that you feel the same way about. All I am really trying to say is, “Don’t make the same mistakes again. Tell the others that you value EXACTLY what you feel for them NOW, so you will have less regrets if they leave before you do.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
PS – I received two responses to my text message immediately. (Goes to show how attached to their cell phones kids are!)
Sarah – “Aww thankx daddy-o! And all 5 of us couldn’t have askd 4 a betr daddy I mean ur a freakin ROCKSTAR! I LOVE U DADDY!”
Joel – “Dad I love u to and have a good night ok?”
I know the other three are out there somewhere…
(Originally posted on the website Heron Flight)
I have begun a massive project of typing my hand-written private journals. Currently, there are 19 volumes!
Seeing as my handwriting is so poor, I thought it might be best to take on this project. I always tell my children that one day they will be allowed to read these journals. The poor things! They won’t be able to decipher most of what is written! It’s awful! I had to laugh yesterday when my son, Tim, was writing something on the back of a business card while we were in the car. He looked at me apologetically and said, “It’s a little messy because the car is bumpy.” I said, “Dude! THAT looks a hundred times better than the way I normally write when I’m sitting still at a desk!”
So far, I have typed 17 pages in Word. That covers 38 hand-written pages in this old composition book with pages falling out that I call “Volume 1”. That’s not quite one-fifth of the notebook. I expect the Word files for each volume to average close to 100 pages. So, for the next several years, I will be sequestered away like a medieval monk transcribing Latin with quill and ink. Only Latin is probably easier to understand than my handwriting!
My writing experience sort of “morphed” into personal journal keeping by chance. At the start, volume 1 was a collection of devotional thoughts that I, as a Christian, wrote down as I contemplated various portions of the Bible. (Yes, I am the same guy that wrote all the raunchy swear words in the last entry on this website. Yes, that may be an indication of how my heart has declined since 1985. Actually, it peaked and then declined.) After several pages of these devotional writings, volume 1 suddenly becomes a personal journal. My writing style changed due to a book that I read called “Sandy, A Heart for God” by Leighton Ford. Leighton’s son, Sandy, was a Christian who kept a diary. He died at the age of 21 while undergoing surgery for a rare heart condition. I began my journal at age 21. After reading about Sandy, I decided to use my journal to capture my thoughts, emotions, experiences, etc.
As I’ve been working my way through Volume 1 over the last two days, I am confronted by differing emotions. At some points I am embarrassed by what I wrote. Some of it seems immature, presumptuous, self-inflated, 21-ish”. Some of the memories of that period in my life that have come back to me are good. I think of how Joel was only 9 months old, not even walking yet. I remember some of the friends from that period and smile. Some other memories, especially of my first marriage, make me happy that I am now 21 years removed from that time. Some of these memories are tainted due to circumstances that have transpired between then and now.
There is one person mentioned near the start of the journal of whom I had to make a note. His name was Joe. We worked together on the road department in Washington, NJ. His father was the head supervisor of the department. Back in those days, Joe was a rowdy pot-smoking guy. I was a Christian. While I often talked about Bible related topics with some of the guys on the crew, usually because they brought the subject up, Joe was a constant source of temptation and instigation. I distinctly remember one time, at the town dump where we disposed of residents’ lawn clippings and leaves, Joe decided to light up a big ol’ joint and get high. I said nothing and intended to say nothing. I minded my own business. One of the other guys said, “Hey Joe, what if Preacher Boy (me) tells your dad?” Joe didn’t know that I could hear his response when he said, “If he does, I’ll hit him in the head with a shovel!”
Joe didn’t stay on the job very long. Then I didn’t see him for several years. By the time I did see him again, I had three kids, was divorced, and about to be married again. I was surprised to see Joe under the circumstances. We were at a multiple church baptismal service along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. Suddenly, in the midst of that crowd, before the service started, I bumped into Joe! I was so surprised that I blurted out, “Joe! What are YOU doing HERE????” Joe smiled and said, “Brother, I’m getting baptized today. My life is completely different.” Wow!
I saw Joe a few years ago in a local mall. He was married and had a child. By then, my spiritual situation had declined. I was a rebel. I had been through too much heartache. The amazing new Joe said, “Brother, Jesus still loves you and you can give me a call anytime.”
Funny how life goes. So much history has happened between Volume 1 and Volume 19! Reading Volume 1 now, I find myself thinking that it couldn’t have been me who wrote some of the entries. Did I really think in those ways? Did I really let such seemingly petty events upset me so? Where did many of those inward struggles go? Did I win them? Did I give up the struggles? Did I merely grow out of them?
How will Volume 19 look to me 21 years from now when I’m on Volume 38? Stick around. When we get that far, I’ll write about it on the website.