I can’t be sure why I’m poking along, taking my time getting to McKinleyville, California. It was only 22 miles from Trinidad, but I just couldn’t seem to ride very far each day. I found my mind wandering a lot, and about nothing special.
The views of the ocean were spectacular. I could hear the ebb and flow of the waves as they rhythmically move, almost like some sort of dance. At one point, there was a parking area off the side of the road with access to the beach.
I decided to take time out from this ride and do some reflecting. Water always helped me feel close to God, and God was who I was missing right then.
As I sat on the beach, allowing the ocean to tickle my toes, I thought back as to why I seemed to feel depressed. The weather had been picture perfect, so I knew that wasn’t it. My money was holding out, and I wasn’t yearning for any nourishment.
I decided to think back as to when this depressed feeling started. I had been unsuccessful finding any type of volunteer work in Trinidad, but that hadn’t bothered me. I took advantage of my time there and did a lot of sightseeing.
Then it hit me, while I was out snooping around, I came across an old man who was kneeling before some sort of memorial that had been erected in his backyard. I quietly watched this man as he prayed; at least I think he was praying. When he finished, I saw him touch a photo that had been imbedded into the stone memorial. I could make out that the photo was of a woman.
I allowed myself to assume this woman was the man’s wife. I figured he recently lost his wife, and was still mourning the loss. Judging by his frailty and white hair, I figured the man to be in his late 80’s or maybe early 90’s. Assuming he and his wife married young, I figured they had been married over 60 years. How hard that would be to love someone that long and be the one left behind.
Later that day, as I sat at the diner counter eating my lunch, I inquired about the old man. My waitress, a middle-aged woman, knew exactly who I was talking about, but some of my assumptions were wrong. The man was 92, but the photo was a picture of his daughter who had passed away over 60 years ago.
The man had been a salesman which took him away much of the week. His daughter would often beg him to come to one of her baseball games, but Jim, the old man, always explained that work came first. His daughter grew to accept the fact that her father’s job took him away, and unlike her friends’ parents, was unable to be a bigger part in her life. Her mom would show up occasionally, but most game days, the mother needed to be home with their other children.
On one sunny day, the girl headed off to practice and was struck by a speeding car. She was killed instantly. Her father was away and couldn’t be reached by phone since there weren’t any cell phones back then. His wife had to wait until he phoned her to give him the tragic news.
My heart grew heavy thinking about how this father must have felt hearing that horrible news long distance. I began to realize just how good things like cell phones, internet, and other modern devices are to communicating with others. I had often condemned the popularity of texting stating that it takes away the closeness between people, but this story made me rethink my position on this.
As I continued to listen, my waitress grew solemn while she swallowed hard before finishing her story. She said, “That man was my father. He was never the same after my sister was killed.”
I made my condolences, quietly finished my lunch, and got on my way. I had been thinking how tragic it had been that the man had never seen his daughter play baseball, probably missed birthdays, first attempts at anything, and wasn’t there the day the accident happened.
I soon realized that my depression was based off of the number of times I had ignored a loved one, claiming to be too busy for them. Subconsciously, I had been thinking how selfish my ride seemed to be, but then I realized that I was still doing God’s work. I thought back to all the wonderful people I had met and who had helped me along my way.
As I sat watching the waves dance, I decided that the best thing I could do to remedy my situation was to call family and friends more often. I even thought that some of my nieces and nephews may like to join me on some of this ride. How great would that be to have that kind of quality time with a loved one.
I got up, brushed the sand off of me, and headed back to my bike. I grabbed my phone, called each of my siblings, and told them how much I love them and miss them. Then I called a few friends and my nieces and nephews. Surprisingly, my middle niece said she’d love to ride with me. Her job is with a local ministry, and they decided she could do some ministering along the way.
I’ll be meeting up with Sarah in Eureka, California. I have new found energy since Eureka is only about 25 miles from where I stood. I felt like I had my priorities straight again. Never would I ever take any loved one for granted for we just don’t know when God calls them home.
And in my real world, I just experienced losing my uncle. He lived in California for years. I remember when I was growing up, looking forward to seeing Uncle Hal because he had traveled the world, seen so much, and had such delightful stories to share.
My sister, brother-in-law, and I took a trip out to see him about ten years ago. We had a blast and Hal had shown us so many wonderful sights around the San Francisco area. Then we helped him cull through some personal items that he was thinking about parting with. Most of the items were household items. He gave me this fabulous set of Royal Dalton china that I display proudly in my hutch.
About five years ago, my uncle’s health started going downhill. My sister and I must have said at least a dozen times in the past two years that we needed to get back out to see Hal since he was not able to come see us anymore.
We kept saying, “Maybe next year we can plan a trip out there.” Now it’s too late. Hal has been called home to be with God, and we are left to mourn like the fictitious man at the beginning of my blog.
As my sister and I drove back to Nebraska, where Hal was laid to rest, we spoke about how we had not been good about prioritizing our lives to accommodate the aging relatives we still have. We were grateful that we were able to see some of those relatives at Hal’s funeral, and we are now busy trying to make plans for some sort of family reunion somewhere halfway between the places we live.
Life is too short to spend most of your time working. As important as our jobs are to our livelihood and the people we touch on with any jobs we have, we have to know when to say, “I’m going home to be with my family. That piece of work can wait until tomorrow.”
You see, the work will always be there, and if you aren’t there to do it, someone else will get it done. But you may not have another opportunity to see that school play, a first date, or a special birthday. And for those of you who still have parents who are living, take the time to do things with them even if it’s a little inconvenient for you.
Also, recognize when others, who value family time a little more than you might, need more personal time than maybe you do. Just because you are focused on work projects, doesn’t mean they need to be just like you. God made us alike in a lot of ways, but He also made each of us individually.
I’m going to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to my boss and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado for giving me the personal time off to attend my uncle’s funeral. As my family and I mourn our loss, I can be thankful that I work for a great bunch of people who do recognize that we all need to prioritize the work we do into our personal lives.
So before you race off to another meeting, or head to the gym before going home, take some time to at least call someone and say, “Hey, have I told you lately just how much I love you?” And as always, let’s keep going the distance. God bless you all, and I love you.