When Mr. Bowdie died, we were supposed to spend the weekend fishing, just like the week before when I had caught my first fish ever. It was almost a miracle that anyone could catch a fish that day. Mr. Bowdie had a worn-out boat and motor that refused to start that day. Dad stuck a cane pole in my hand while he and Mr. Bowdie wrestled with the old Evinrude. The boat was half in the water half on the bank. We were making more noise than any fish would brave being around. Somehow a huge old carp happened to swallow the tomato worm on my hook. I pulled him in with shouts of joy and pride over my first trophy.
Mister Bowdie laughed and jumped up and down more than I did. He promised that the next weekend he would have the motor fixed and we would learn what it was like to catch a whole boatload of fish, together. Sleep didn’t come easy that week as I visualized everything Mr. Bowdie promised.
When the phone rang, I was lying on the floor near dad’s chair watching “Gunsmoke”. I could tell from dad’s hushed tones that something was wrong. When he told us that Mr. Bowdie was dead my whole world went dark. I could feel the tightness and lump in my throat. Tears poured uncontrolled down my cheeks. My tender little boy heart broke for the first time, leaving the harsh promise of many more breakings to come.
I knew there would be no more sitting in the boat with Mr. Bowdie. There would be no more watching him saucer his coffee, no more digging in his huge tool box. There would never be a time to sit in his lap listening to his fish stories. Mister Bowdie was gone. We would never have those special times together again. Anything we planned to do could never be done because death stole our future.
This time the pain was a little different. At nine years old, I had time to make plans to go to Dickens, Texas and help Granny and Grandpa. I even dreamed about shining his shoes and taking him squirrel hunting. I promised Grandpa in the summer that I would come help him take care of Granny who was unable to walk any more. This time I had made the commitment that death would break.
Death is a robber of future plans. Death comes at the worst time and steals our dreams and intentions. Death is certainly cruel but fair in that it hurts everyone it leaves behind.
I’d like to say that I learned not to put off the important matters in life. I wish I could say that I’ve made the memories, fulfilled the promises and lived the dreams I have with my loved ones. I haven’t. Like most every person I know I am leaving undone the simple things like saying I love you, taking my nieces and nephews fishing, writing that special note to someone I know I hurt in the past but have been too stubborn to ask forgiveness. Today would truly be the time to do those things.
Someday a little boy or girl is going to hurt because I am gone. Will I at least leave them with a completed promise, dream or desire? There is a song we used to sing in the old country church that reminds us of the suddenness of goodbye.
Tomorrow may mean goodbye
We never, know when or why
God calls us away, when life seems so gay
Our bodies in dust to lie
Tomorrow our souls may sigh
For beauty we let slip by
Oh, listen to me today
Fall down on your knees and pray
May mean goodbye
Now that I am a man, death’s tragedy hurts just as much as it did when I was a boy. I have learned that there is a tomorrow where the “saved and the blessed” join a heavenly family, united together where death will never part. My decision is to live my life making certain that I’ll be happy on that day.
“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (1 John 2:28).