After reading the text, I had to sit down before I collapsed in shock. The one friend I spent much of my younger life with has suddenly died.
“Too young to have died,” I thought as many memories as possible of us together came to mind. Memories of us before we went our separate ways.
We just started middle school when we met for the first time. We sat next to each other and started joking about how boring the teacher was, and how we would soon be fast asleep. From there our friendship took off. We quickly found out our lives at home were quite similar when it came to our fathers. They were both alcoholics. Angry alcoholics. Many times, we would show each other the bruises we received the day prior.
“One day I’m going to kill the bastard,” Garrett told me during our first days in high school. “Stop hurting me and my mother.”
I was a little luckier for I had two other siblings, which my father took turns taking out his frustrations on us. Every so often, he would punish all three of us at the same time. Thankfully, none of us ever had any broken bones. Garrett came to school with a couple of broken fingers one day. Results from trying to take a snack his dad liked to have, his dad suddenly appearing, and grabbing his hand to twist and squeeze.
Both of us doted on our mothers, for they did what they could to make the home a decent place to live.
“How did my mom get stuck with him?” we both asked each other.
The school years went by with us doing stuff together to keep ourselves away from our homes.
It was our final year in school that Garrett started taking out his frustrations out on fellow students. We spoke unkind words about others since we met, but he took it a step further, and it was becoming physical. He was a big boy while I was a tall, skinny boy. The reason I didn’t pick any fights. I left it up to him for the physical part. The problem is there were times Garrett grew upset with me. Thankfully, never physically, but some yelling. Then he stomped away before it got worse.
Once we graduated, we went our separate ways since I joined the military while he got a job so he could move out of the house. The good news is that we both got away from our fathers. It was a time to heal, and move on, but everyone is different when it comes to moving on.
I didn’t stay in the military for long, just wanting to stay in long enough to get a college fund.
I had brief contact with Garrett while I was in the military and in the last six months in the service there was no contact at all. When I got home, I found out that he had moved out of state. I figured there was little chance of seeing my good friend ever again.
In my early days going to school, my mother would take me to church regularly. I believe it was to get away from my father since he rarely attended. He would always say he would catch on fire once he stepped foot in a church and go to hell. For myself, I would hear little of what they were preaching, and even taking in less on what they were teaching. Like so many others, I looked at many who called themselves Christians as hypocrites, and that belief in a loving God is outdated.
“Maybe when people rode horses and lack of technology, it made sense. Not now,” I thought.
Once I went into the military, I practically stopped going to church, except for twice a year to appease my mother.
When I got out of the military, I continued with my life, getting a job, and moving out of my parent’s house. My father was doing much better when it came to his drinking and anger issues, but I could care less.
“He is going to church every weekend,” my mother told me.
“Asking God for forgiveness?” I asked with a snort. “Hard to believe. I know I don’t forgive him.”
“He is a changed man.”
“Good for him, but the damage has already been done.”
“Don’t let your anger and unforgiveness take you down the wrong path,” my mother pleaded.
“I can take care of myself.”
Time quickly went by as I continued with my life. It didn’t take long to realize I was going down the wrong path. The people I hung out with, and a couple of girlfriends, turned out to be bad news in my life. My light drinking became heavy, and more smoking to take me away. There was much mental abuse that led to physical abuse. My mother tried to lead me back, and even my father stepped in, but my rebellion continued. It will take something drastic for me to change. It came when I was about to turn thirty. Taking a catnap and waking up feeling like someone was constantly punching me in the side of my chest.
“Maybe I strained a muscle.”
I got the hot and ice patch and put it on the area that was throbbing. Big mistake. The pain intensified to the point I could barely breath. I tried to drive to the ER, but I was in too much pain. I had to call my mother, wishing I would have held off on breaking up with my girlfriend so she could have taken me. Once I got to the hospital, I was soon admitted, and countless tests were taken. Eventually, it was found out that I had a blood clot in my lung. Thankfully, with medicine, they could break it up, and soon I was home.
“I know many people that died of blood clots,” a nurse told me as I walked out of the hospital.
A week after getting home, I heard a friend of a friend die from a blood clot in the lung.
I rethought my way of looking at life. Maybe there is a God that loves me and has plans for me. My mother has told me we all have gifts. With me living such a negative life, I figured God skipped me on giving out gifts.
As time went by, many questions crossed my mind, and it amazed me how many of them were answered soon after. By reading. By watching. By listening. Listening is the key word since there were so many times, I closed myself off on everything that would have put me on the right path. I immediately saw positive results, as I did my best to live a positive life. I heard so much negativity about the Christian faith just to find out how false the propaganda was. I found out it’s all about love. Something that can be tough in so many ways, but it can be done. I noticed how so many mis-understand faith due to people of faith who turn out to be poor examples. But we all fall no matter how “all and mighty” we are. Even our church leaders fall and face problems like the rest of us.
As I sit here stunned by Garrett’s death, I think of the last time I saw him. It wasn’t too long after I started taking my life in the right direction. I was in the park on a beautiful day, relaxing and reading on a bench, when I noticed someone from the corner of my eye sit down. I eventually took a quick glance over, then had to do a double take.
“Garrett?” I asked.
I barely recognized him, for he wore all black and looked like he put on quite a few pounds. His complexion was quite pale.
He looked at me with dull eyes, taking a while before he recognized me.
“Chris? Is that you?” he asked.
“Long time no see,” he slurred out.
We talked for a little before he suddenly got up and said he had to get somewhere. I could tell he was embarrassed for me to see him that way.
I should have stopped him that day and see if I could have helped him out. There could have been a chance he would have taken me down the path of ruin.
I get up and go to the window knowing there are always “should haves” in our past days. But we move on and try to learn from our mistakes. Time to live in the present and beyond.