I’m finally realizing one of the things that happens when you grow older.
Mind you, these feelings didn’t kick in so much after my parents passed away – my mother in 2007 and my father in 2008. It’s only now when former co-workers are passing on and family members are facing health issues has it made me realize our time here is short.
Looking back, it began a year ago when my friend Bill Gronroos passed away in Brunswick, Georgia. He died no more than a month after we’d attended The Buddy Holly Story together here in Jacksonville. For a year, I’d carried deep feelings of guilt because I failed to make it to his Celebration of Life.
And then, here comes the Holidays 2018. Another friend – and distant cousin – Mike Morrison passed away in December after fighting off Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Mike was Georgia through and through. A diehard Dawgs fan, he was a graduate of the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia. Mike could make you laugh, dare you to think and, before you knew it, leave you with a lifelong connection.
The last time I saw him was December 2016 at a cookout at yet another former co-worker’s house in Brunswick. When he arrived late, I went to shake his hand, but Mike wouldn’t have it. Only a bro-hug would do.
As he settled in and the conversation got deeper as we reminisced more and more, he brought us up to speed on one chapter in his life.
He stood up, pulled open his shirt and showed us his open-heart surgery scar. Admittedly, there were a few gasps. He went on to explain how we was now part pig in that he had a piece of porcine heart serving as a valve in his heart.
Two weekends ago at his Celebration of Life event, his mother told me, “We thought we were going to lose him then.”
I felt like a stranger at that church that day. I went up to Mike’s father Carlton and re-introduced myself, having first met him in 1987. I shook his hand and walked forward with my wife to find a pew and sit down.
However, within seconds, Carlton came forward and grabbed me and said, “I do remember you. I remember when you did the news at WGIG and, I remember your father too.”
And here’s where another realization pops in. He went on to tell me how he used to play with my father when they were young boys in South Central Georgia. But, a second gift would come my way next.
“Your father came to my book signing when I had one at the library in McRae,” said Carlton, whose book “Running the River: Poleboats, Steamboats & Timber Rafts on the Altamaha, Ocmulgee, Oconee & Ohoopee” was published in 2003.
Carlton’s father was a United Methodist pastor and, therefore, he and his family moved around the state. And as fate would have it, I found out in early November, that Carlton’s father performed my parents’ wedding ceremony.
Maybe it’s that we don’t appreciate where we came from when we’re young or we’ve heard the stories so many times that we drown them out.
While Mike was not wealthy, he lived a full life. He hiked the full length of the Appalachian Trail and he travelled to London 21 times in his 62 years. He even got to take his father one time.
When we worked together at The Brunswick News, I recall Mike telling me, “Just go. It don’t matter, Eric, just go. I did.”
And then today, as I sat down to write this, an old friend whose voice I’ve not heard since college messaged me today wanting to catch up, perhaps another reminder that our time here is short.
Don’t wait. Just go.