“Two boys gone. The land is mine, Roy.
They’ll never build on it.”
Johnny Cash was awkward at consoling his friend.
I marveled how he lived. Perpetual discomfort in his own skin, especially when the topic turned to human hardships, death or separation from people he had embraced once or a thousand times. He was touched easier than most people.
His heart was meant to be touched.
There was an eternal itch he couldn’t scratch, a wound that never healed and occasionally those souls festered and formed into poetry, often set to music. But mostly, scribbles on wrinkled college-ruled. I possess a few of those scribbles.
He took in those he cared for. All the way in. No one who touched him was ever gone. They continued to tap him on the shoulder, sometimes a bit too much.
Death or disappearance didn’t matter.
Souls gone but never gone, faded to an image of a re-lived last goodbye or emerged as hard reverence.
A graceful testament to those he loved. Especially the tortured ones.
Mostly. The tortured or hurt ones. The frail who couldn’t go on and took matters into their own hands.
Like he was singing to God to let them in.
Pleading for their mercy.
Let. Them. In..
The Faron Young Memorial. The country legend. A suicide.
They slunk like shadows out of nowhere to follow him.
Around the edges dark of light.
At times, he was ahead of the demons. Then black days existed. He was captured.
Unfortunately, like ill-timed the public always seemed to be around for those moments.
He was heartbroken and haunted over deaths of youth. They were his losses. In a way, J.C. anxiously sought to absorb the pain because that’s what you did for people you love.
He never was able to release from the death of his brother Jack.
He shuffled the heels of his favorite house shoes.
Back and forth in the dirt like an anxious child with an agitated hitch in his step, or nervous tic. Forming nervous heel arcs in the dirt.
Solemn words delivered deep and straight and without compromise.
Cash was like that with promises.
Those he made to others were kept. Promises made to himself – not so much.
As we admired a big, slung-low orange sun disappear in slow motion beneath the glass-like water of Old Hickory Lake, the conversation shifted to Roy Orbison who lost two of his three children to a house fire.
The Cash and Orbison families were next door neighbors in 1967.
Perhaps it was the Tennessee high-octane that gave me the courage to pull the past into this moment, dig into the scars of heartbreaking tragedy.
The fire fascinated me. Fire always fascinates me.
JC’s overwhelming act of love fascinated me more. As I watched him ponder, perhaps relive that moment, I asked a question that popped into my head.
What do you think goes through your head 10 seconds before you die?
I don’t know why 10 seconds. It was a question that popped into my head because it was supposed to, I guess.
10 just rolled off my tongue. Little did I know at the time how important the thought of 10 seconds was going to be. And asking the question. Over the following decade I was to lose everybody I cherished.
He spoke in deepest baritone. Vibrations circle and settle in my ears.
In the middle of the night I can hear that voice resonating under my head. Shaking my pillow.
I always listened…
John Gilpin was testing out his camera when he accidentally caught a 14-year-old stowaway’s fall.
The last seconds of a life are staccato sparkles which ignite eyes to free your eyes.
A thousand firecrackers. Energy agitated, ready to flee, anxious for release.
It’s you pushing out to the next you, whatever, whomever that is.
It’s the wave before the crest.
The smell of a season.
The crisp of air that kisses sharp on the cheeks. Tiny blades of pain and comfort that are rarely never forgotten because it coupled with a first kiss.
The eternally burned anguish of the unrequited.
The glimpse from afar before the lids seal tight.
The sound of a distant cry.
A final goodbye never delivered.
Oh, I’m no expert on death.
Unfortunately, I’ve been in the wrong places at the wrong times. Or have I?
“What are you thinking?” has been my question.
I’ve asked my grandfather, my father, mother, a good friend and a music legend.
The last glimpse of a life from the inside out or inside the inside.
There are snap shots I’ll never forget. Nor do I want to.
But when I asked JC, when I asked him what he believed his last 10 seconds would be like, what would he say?
“I’d see my demons move on. Defeated.”
“I’ll remember how proud I am of my kids and I’d tell them once a second. Ten times.”
“June and I would travel around the planets in a camper.”
“I’d hug Jack for as long as Jesus would allow me. And then some.”
“I want to compose great music to keep the heavens shining.”
Loved ones. I’ve lost many but I’ll stick with my top 3. Their “close to last” words stick with me. They surround me but never wall me in. They encourage embrace.
So, what would your last 10 seconds on this planet be like?
What will you remember?
Write them. Feel them. One second. Slow it down. Turn it into 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days. Then know you have more time than 10 seconds.
Slow it down.
You’ve been given 10 seconds, 10 lifetimes, of second ten chances.
Are you holding something back?
Are you not telling people in your world how much you love them?
10 seconds goes a long way to shattering a lifetime of regret.
So, 10 seconds is a title. A thought. Headline candy. Nobody is talking anything coherent 10 blood-beats before life energy is released to the universe.
Dad: “Why didn’t we spend more time together?”
Mom: “Will I ever see you again?”
Me. So far: “I never stopped loving you. I never will.”
To live fully is to die a thousand times in one life.
The resurrections make you who you are.
And then there’s the shit that sucks.
Like things you meant to say to those you love before they go.
But you didn’t.
And now you must think those words and hope they carry to a place they may hear them and hold you.
This post is dedicated to radio personality, incredible husband and father, and special person who will be missed by thousands for an eternity.
A good man. A really good man. A noble man.
Take courage when the road is long.
Don’t ever forget you are never alone.
I want you to live forever.
Underneath the sky so blue….