Eric’s Sunday Sermon; Living, Lives on and Dead
A Long Road
We meet disaster and triumph and treat those two imposters just the same said Kipling. Living takes courage, to live on takes a life of important and I am not sure about dead. A spider can be squished dead but can a man ever really be dead. Living a life can be bad or good. A person that lives on can be bad or good. Are we living the good life? What will live on after we pass? Will we ever be dead?
I was snowed in at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). And you scoff at me saying that it never snows in Los Angeles. Yes but! If weather is real bad where you are going to land you do not take off only to be turned around. Frozen solid on the East Coast so we were moribund on the west. Palm trees swaying in the breeze as we were “snowed” in.
We were there for a “red eye” flight into NY, NY. Figure it was about midnight and us “suits” were hunkered down in a Mexican food restaurant/bar. Something clicked in my head and instead of shots of tequila and swigging down Corona’s I was nursing a Michalada and plate of tamales. The place was packed but I can look mean and angry to a point where people avoid sharing my table. A trick I learned in Europe ’72. A rather rotund handsome gentlemen asked to share the table. Of course I was glad for some company. He was affable in a very calculated intelligent way. I think he ordered a martini which he really only took whiffs of. A good bit unspoken time. Good company. I simply cannot remember the year.
He wore a special ring. Looked like an alumni ring. His suit was probably adjusted by a tailor but not Italian silk. He had a crook in his neck but sat upright and dignified. His hands looked like mine, battered from brawling. I noted a strange kind of roll to his left shoulder. I just had to ask where he had boxed. Clearly a career of it at some point and probably a good one based on his clothes and clear confidence.
He smiled crooked and asked if I knew the song “Bo Jangles”. Of course I did to a point of being able to sing it and dance to it. He smiled again and said “throughout the South”. I got his point, he was no “in the ring” fighter. I immediately offered to buy him a water as I signaled the waitress. An old joke as a time spent like a Hobo I learned to pay for even water out of the tap. The man got it and said he had to pay for water for a spell. (little did I know, for a different reason)
I Have No Right To Meet Angels
Easier to Believe
A good long quiet time as we were clearly lost in our thoughts alone yet together. That is a sweet spot for fellow travelers marooned in a city of angels. A gentlemen came up and asked about having our empty chair. He was coifed to a stylish New England flair. My new friend said of course and I finished it by saying he could have it if he moved it to another table. Gratitude was in the eye of my new friend. And I noticed in the dim light that he was indeed bone weary and was in no need of company.
I figured it was time to up the stranger game and took a coaster and wrote my name with Dr. attached. I told him that was my business card and did he have one. His was simple, just “John”. Fair enough I figured.
I leaned over and asked him if he knew that very large man in the loose suit staring at us from time to time. John indicated he did and it was just fine. I of course offered my chair in exchange for the bar stool the large man engulfed. Perhaps they would like to sit together I figured and no skin off my nose. The offer was declined with a funny reference that the man needed to be where he was. By about now I decided to drink a bit heavier, but stick with beer. The public address system came to life and told us only another hour or so.
I noticed a bit of a glint in his eye. Assumed it was the news of a soon departure. But fished out a penny from my trousers and tossed it across the table. He stopped it with his left hand and I could tell he knew the game. But a fast man always stops the penny, by instinct. “A Penny for your thoughts Mr. John.” He was obliged as he held the penny.
“I was smiling at you” he responded. You don’t ask too many questions. And you don’t make small talk. That is different than where I now work and live. I of course only nodded. This time it was coffee I ordered with just a small dip of brandy – two, coffees that is.
It was then I noticed his “brief” case. Worn hard leather. More of a keepsake than a utility. Shoes the same. I conjured up who would have an obvious protection detail old shoes and an old attaché bag. Dignified yet with a confidence made both of battles won and battles lost.
My Father-in-Law was an Army Ranger
Is It Wind of an Angel That Lifts Us?
Hard to Remember and Harder to Forget
About at that time the man on the stool stood up in a posture like a good linebacker in football. Ready in any direction and poised to pounce with major intensity. A drunken man stumbled up to our table. “John” waived his “bulldog” off. And the man asked for a signature. A nice looking cream colored black man who was probably just fine sober. The wish was granted and the drunk effusively thanked Mr. Lewis. I figured that by the accolades “John” was actually a boxer or some renowned. I could just feel the intensity of the bulldog and nearly bid my farewell. I can fight but not against a pro.
Well we eventually boarded different flights, his to Washington D.C. and mine to nowhere real NY, NY.
In NY I asked a man if there was a famous boxer I did not know of named John Lewis. “Really!?” was the answer. I told him I met a man with that name and someone asked him for an autograph. A bull of a man with nothing left to prove. I described him. The man laughed his butt off right there in a meeting.
Turns out Mr. John Lewis was famous alright. Turns out I had him pegged as a brawler. Turns out he was a champion. Turns out I was visited in LAX by an angel and did not recognize him as such.
Living? For sure he was. Living on, for sure he does but I ain’t so sure of that dead part. He will forever live in my heart that memory will forever live on and there is not one thing about him that will ever be dead to me.
So we muddle on through life. Not really knowing coming or going. Special folks treat us with kindness. Maybe if we are blessed we treat them with kindness. Some of us go from battle to battle without real purpose. Others go from purpose to purpose with real battle.
Love of others is a special treat to be found. People who lay down their lives for others are treasures. Let us give divisiveness a holiday and celebrate good men with their busted knuckles and all.