An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of their life: whether this life has any meaning, purpose, or value.
Yes, it was, as they say, an existential crisis. At least it was for me, in a way.
As you know, two weeks ago my old pal Barry Suttle died suddenly. No warning. Tuesday night, he was commenting on Facebook about how he loved Leon Russell's cover of "Jumping Jack Flash".
Wednesday morning he was gone.
I don't ever remember him mentioning having a cold. A couple of months ago, he mentioned chest pains. He went to the doctor. The doctor said it was gastric reflux.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Barry really encouraged me to write. He said I was good. He said I reminded him of Lewis Grizzard.
That still blows me away. Someone who knew me as a skinny, uncoordinated, zit-faced, four-eyed geek at Wheeler comparing me to one of my humor heroes now that I'm a tubby, uncoordinated, zit-faced geek with contact lenses.
On Blogger, you can see how many people have read your post. When the great Furman Bisher died, I wrote a piece called "Selah" (the Hebrew word for "ponder" which Bisher would sometimes end his columns). It got a grand total of three reads. Three. ***
One was Barry.
After the initial shock of learning of his death, I became really numb. It was like nothing made sense to me. Then I realized it was the first non-accident sudden death I had experienced.
My Dad's death was not a surprised. Neither was my mother-in-law's. My father-in-law's death was surprising, but he was elderly and not in the best of health. Mom's was a shock too, but she was older and had lived a full life. My brother's niece called me one evening and said, "Your brother will die in 30 minutes". So, even then, I had some time to prepare.
With Barry, I had no time to prepare. He was here one day. Then, he wasn't.
His memorial service helped me out a lot. While there were tears, there were also some laughs.
The speakers told a lot of great stories:
- Barry and Bobby singing "Let It Be" with Barry's hand written lyrics with this instruction: "Dramatic".
- Barry bringing Mike's Hard Cider Lemonade for use as the communion wine at a Bible study retreat.
- Barry drinking Scotch with Tony.
- Barry retrieving his son's first college home run and getting stuck on the fence.
It struck me how Barry was the same with them as he was with me. Open. Honest. I could ask him any question and he would answer me. If someone else asked the same question he would give the same answer.
If I had to sum up Barry, I would say this. A lot of people tell you what they think. Barry told you what he saw. That's what umpires do. That don't tell you they think they saw a strike. They tell you they saw a strike.
I can't tell you how many people Barry told me he loved. It has to be in the millions. He saw a lot of good in people that frankly I had trouble seeing. But, upon further review, he was right in what he saw.
We used to talked about sports, Wheeler, girls at Wheeler, and music. I never did tell him about one of my new favorite singers, Hayes Carll. He's a Texas songwriter, kind of a mix of Jerry Jeff Walker and Jimmy Buffett. He has some really funny songs. One has this classic lyric: "We were making out like Bonnie and Clyde".
Carll has some serious songs and one is called "Long Way Home", which I've listened to a lot over the past two weeks. In the second verse Carll says: "So what are we supposed to do? Just walk around forever blue?"
I thought about that a lot while trying to process Barry's passing. I'm pretty sure he would not want me to walk around forever blue but instead to move forward with the time I have left. He would want me to be a good friend, a good employee, a good husband, a good father and father-in-law.
He would also want me to keep writing because he saw something good in it. Hey, who am I to question the umpire?
*** As of this posting, the blog post "Barry", has 3857 reads.