Life, it’s not just a magazine

Dedicated to the Memory, of my Nephew, the late - Michael Anthony Hathaway
            This article isn’t about periodicals, reading materials, magazines or waiting rooms that are filled with outdated copies of Sports Illustrated.  It’s about life and why we as a world, need to work harder on its preservation, rather than its destruction.  This article isn’t about saving the trees, protecting endangered species, saving the rainforest or making carbon emissions go away, it’s about living every chance we get.  In a previous article, Death, Loss and Hope, there were some pretty sensitive subjects mentioned and of course, the losses that come with it and death that is way too untimely.  When life get’s overwhelming, things happen, people cry, they go out, they get “hammered” and try and drown their worries away, or at least go numb for a bit, they seek out, in essence, themselves and look for deep answers in deeper waters and when a select few find that the water is too deep, sometimes the pressure is too much and life comes to a screeching halt.  When that happens, it creates questions, it creates hurt, it creates loss and then we must pick up what is remaining and work to try and somehow recover and move forward in life, which, as many know, is not the easiest thing to accomplish, especially when riddled in emotional pains.  This time, the loss hit a little closer to home for me and just like so many others, the blanks, the brain locks, the emotional rollercoaster, gripped my family once again, twisting us all sorts of ways into sadness, anger, confusion and fear of the unknown and how to keep moving forward in the face of a loss.  I humbly, present to you, this article about “life”.
            From our earliest memories, comes what is considered the most precious moments of life itself, childhood.  Two things need to happen; Mom and Dad need “that moment” in life and then, Mom several weeks later, goes through the worst pain she will never forget and gives birth to new life.  Many moms and dad’s out there can attest to that “new baby” smell, the stillness of the world when they first hold them, feed them and of course the gag reflex on those first real full diaper changes that no parent will forget.  Suddenly, the wiggling, babbling and seemingly endless nights of crying to deal with, become crawling, walking, taking on tasks, laughing and growing, keeping the world in the front of their eyes and the bumps and bruises full of kisses and comfort, soon thereafter, speaking, saying “mommy” and “love you” and especially, “no” (giggles).  The first 5 years seem like a blur as we watch them grow into children where the personality develops like a blossoming flower and yes, the trials of the “terrible two’s” come with it, where patience is tested, but always followed up by love.  As time moves forward, bonding closer ties with mom and dad, family, friends, they start learning and then a time for new discovery with the hopes that no matter what they choose to become, they will be the absolute best at their task and hopefully make a successful living.
            We watch them struggle against peer pressures and future career decisions and do our best to help them with preparation for their adolescent and pre adult lives, never knowing what challenges they may face, but knowing that the support and love for them only grows stronger and that alone is enough to help propel them forward and encompassing a smile when they succeed.  Sometimes, distance can keep us from reaching out and holding them tightly, letting them know that things will be okay, the comfort is there, the voice that calls them on the phone, is there, but it’s the touch, the sight that matters and we settle within ourselves and take the joy that comes from all of it and cherish even more the times we are able to hug, the family bond becomes like concrete and steel, unbreakable; we blink and they are young adults, the world is theirs and we nervously stand by, waiting, watching and praying that no harm comes to them.
            Once in a while, we meet someone who catches our attention so well that we wish and long to spend the rest of our lives with them and though our lives seem singular at times, we find that someone who helps to make us feel more complete and they the same feeling about us.  Love, Relationship, Moving in, Matrimony and a host of other terms start to fill their lives and the parents become grandparents, and terms like uncle, aunt, cousin start to fill in the pages of memories.  As we age, we watch them grow, as they age, they watch their children grow and then start to fill the same shoes we once wore, taking on the challenges of teaching their children right from wrong, encouraging hope, endurance, individual thought while being there to provide kisses and hugs for the many bumps and bruises (known also as “boo-boo’s”) and probably hearing, “yep, you were right” and “I really sound a lot like you did huh”, the joke of mother’s curses, father’s baldness all of it, intertwine and we again hope that through it all, that our children are happy and never letting go of those memories that time has given us.  Jobs, homes, raising kids teaches us that the cycle of life is endless, and that individual life is precious and our journey’s should not be filled with hurt, but with compassion and care, the two ingredients needed for love. 
            With so much to do and so much to see, it’s a wonder we have time to learn and explore anything at all, but that is why God gives us children, so that as they grow, we can teach, learn and explore together, sharing every priceless moment with our closest friends, known as “family”.  It has been said that you cannot be a friend to your child, nor can you be a parent to them when they are grown, that you must find a natural balance in order to help them understand and learn without them feeling unwanted, unloved or otherwise disliked.  Family takes hold and those items go out the window, yes, we are disciplinarians when our kids are young, we make behavior corrections and hope they get the basics of life down pat, (like food in mouth, clean your room, brush your teeth), but then something special happens, we realize they are starting to show signs of independence and individualism, which makes the bonds of family a lot like having a best friend, one to confide in, share with, hang out with, watch television or just whatever happens and brings great moments or memories.  Our children make this possible and it is too cool, helps us to inspire, amaze and is the core reason that when pro athletes get their moment on camera they say, “Hi Mom” or “Hi Dad” along with the rest, they recognize the bond and hold it high. 
            From my earliest memories, Tony and I shared a bond that even though he was my nephew (and in actuality 2 years older than me) we were as close as brothers.  Yep, we got into scuffles as kids, but who among us that has siblings hasn’t had a spat or two with them, right?  In all of it, we never let any of it, stop us from forgiving and placing our bond above most others, in fact, anyone who knew him and he called friend, would attest to the same, he always provided some insight if he could and when he could not, he tried to understand, perhaps sometimes taking on a bit too much, but never complaining.  Then as his family grew, he moved away to the great state of Arizona, where he fell in love with the environment, making a quick study of the many cacti, minerals, sights, smells and easily making friends and finding a lady or two to share in some of those moments.  His “old Kentucky home” eventually called him back here, where several years had passed since I had last laid eyes on him, we were in the earlier stages of our teenage years.  At the time, not too many friends of my own, his presence seemed almost perfectly timed, we bonded even closer, getting into mischief and no doubt raising my own father’s blood pressure a few times, he loved my mom and dad deeply, they accepted him and did their best to teach and help him grow.
            Together, we did our fair share of raising hell, getting into things, going to parties together and his natural charm and intelligence again drew in a circle of friends that to this day, still remember and still talk about the man they knew and know.  So many adventures that he gave to us all, I myself have plenty of memories where among the compassion he showed to those he knew was insuring they were well fed and if he had extra cash on hand, would gladly spend it to make sure his friends were all set and many times over, was a blessing that we may not have known then, but certainly know now.  Back in our youth, when things went wrong or went a bit screwy, his philosophy of “well, ya know, shit happens” just seemed to smooth the roughest of roads, I learned of his many interests and as much as he would encourage me to learn the great game of chess, no matter my study, strategy or attempt, I just couldn’t match his deep thought nor his skill.
            As time passed and he up and got married, I felt sick to my stomach, I thought, “damn, well, now who am I gonna hang with” even with my own circle of friends, his presence was needed sometimes and he never let that go, we never lost contact with each other and in fact, called upon one another many times over, to help out, hang out, be fed or just take care of business and I looked forward to each time I could go and hang with my long time brother/nephew, it genuinely made me happy.  His children were indeed the gleam in his soul’s eyes.  He placed a lot of effort on letting them be themselves while laughing at some of their antics as they grew.  That effort was rewarded with plenty of challenges, but more laughter and wisdom that helped them to shape into outstanding people and though his son grew up and moved to another state becoming a success and his daughter grew up and moved away and became her own success, he never stopped talking about them nor trying to help them, just as his parents did for him, the core value of care, passed on to the next generation.  He absolutely was an awesome chef, the same insights he used on the chess board, he applied to food and the many artistic things that could be done, including explosive flavors that made anyone who tried his food, look at all the restaurants around them and wonder how they couldn’t do the same.  When he was working for the prestigious Marriot, he again, shared his benefits with me, this time, the benefit of a free round of golf.  I was all for it.  We had a couple of beers and the game began, we started out with a dozen balls and by the time we finished, we had 1 each, I shot a 104, him, a 96.  Around the 10th or 11th hole, we hear, “Hey, get off the damn green!” I realized that I had been driving the golf cart on the course instead of the track provided, I was so embarrassed, he laughed his ass off the whole thing was awesome, we had a blast.
            I could literally write a book of memories of the many adventures we shared, I will sum up with this sentence, “Dude, you should have been there.”  My heart aches for this loss nearly as badly as it did when my parents passed away and the circumstances surrounding it, will forever hold questions for me, a vacuum covering a hole in my heart, a piece of my soul, now missing until we meet again on the other side and trust this, I can’t wait to hear what he has been into, I look forward to that whole moment, right after I kiss the feet of Jesus Christ for being a part of my life and always having my back, I am certain the many animals that Tony had - have met him at the rainbow bridge and are escorting him home to Heaven.  Never have I known someone as mentally tough or as optimistic, but something happened to change that person inside and Tony, rarely let it show, especially to those he loved, that was his way.  Many years ago, realizing and monitoring his own health, the stresses of time, attention, physical challenges took their toll; his body was slowly wearing out and Father Time was applying pressures that are and were unreal.  The very core, the essence of him, was being tested like never before, causing him to fight hard just to breathe, to see, to move or live day by day.  Though he had pain, he rarely cried out in agony, though he struggled to catch his breath, he continued to walk and move about, though his career had met a retirement, he took to the forest, creating beautiful things from Mother Nature’s own beautiful things and yet, he himself was just tired in general.  Tired of being treated less than human by his many physicians, tired of struggling against a mountain that even his own inner strength was drained against its generosity, tired of being reminded that he could no longer do what was the core of him and tired of reaching out to find help only to be shunned by many, some including those he thought were reliable.  The last thing, Tony said to me, in a phone call, “Unc, this is the last conversation we are going to have, I love you, I’m sorry, Goodbye.”  The sinking feeling set in on me immediately, I knew this was NOT the man I knew, I immediately called him back …. No answer.  I called his daughter who also tried to reach him….no answer.  I raced to his house, some 70 miles away, calling the local law enforcement as I sped down the highway and repeatedly called his house….no answer, then, just two miles from his home, the call that shattered the lives of so many people, “Mr. Hall, we regret to inform you that he is no longer with us.”
            I stopped my truck and a void set in, I was in instant denial, I floored the gas pedal and raced to meet with an officer who confirmed what I was told.  I sat in my truck, bawling, to have that same officer give me a hug and express deep condolences, I cried for an hour straight while waiting for his wife to arrive.  The rest is a blur, the coroner arrived before his wife and removed him from the scene and now, my nephew, my brother, my friend is gone and my life will never be the same.  No parent should EVER have to bury their child and having to convey the tragedy and sorrow to my sister, was the most terrible thing I have ever had to do in my life, God Bless her and his wife, who lost so much in one person and to be left with so many questions and voids, even in my own pain and hurt, I cannot imagine how much more they have upon their own hearts.  The man I knew, the person he was, the lives he touched and the things he taught, will forever be etched in history.  Here’s to you, Tony, you have never had a thing to be sorry for, you have never deserved anything that came to your door and as generous as your heart was, you should never have had to worry about who would show up, cause I, your brother and uncle, from day one, never did and knowing that as morbid as this is and was, that you shared a final moment with me and others that loved you, will always be held close to my heart, in honor of you.  Rest in Peace, I love you.

Scott Hall

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