… while they live, to paraphrase a song recorded over the years by The Carter Family, The Wilburn Brothers, and Wilma Lee & Stony Cooper to name just a few. I’ve always liked that song, made an impression on me a long time ago and I’ve tried more often than not to live by the message in it.
Wonderful things of folks are said
When they have passed away
Roses adorn the narrow bed
Over the sleeping clay
About a week ago in my Three Cents, I told the story of how I ended up on air for the first time. The central figure in that story was former WYYZ-AM station manager Barry Holt, who gave a young teenager a chance that ended up starting a career. Here at home I told my wife that I was thinking I ought to call him sometime. I figured if nothing else it would be a random blast from the past for him, just a few minutes to fill in one of those Whatever Happened To? things that cross our minds occasionally being answered more than 20 years later. I wasn’t sure how odd he might think that call was, coming completely out of the blue and all, but I wanted to at least be sure to say “Thank you” because that wasn’t something I’d done since getting into the business full-time. He’d gone his way, I’d gone mine, our paths really didn’t have much occasion to cross.
Give me the roses while I live
Trying to cheer me on
Useless are flowers that you give
After the soul is gone
I mentioned the idea of calling Barry to my wife after I posted the story last Sunday. Mentioned it again in the middle of the week as I was working on the follow-up story, considering that none of those memories might have happened if not for his openness to a kid. Said something Saturday about wanting to call him soon, just felt like I ought to at least say “thanks”. I suspect many of you know how it goes though, you keep meaning to do something but there always seems to be some interruption, something else you end up doing, some have-to (real or imagined) that keeps you from getting around to the want-to.
Kind words are useless when folks lie
Cold in a narrow bed
Don’t wait till death to speak kind words
Now should the words be said
Sunday afternoon a long-ago classmate of mine sent me a message on Facebook. Her mom had called to let her know that Barry Holt had died about an hour earlier. That classmate and recently reacquainted friend had seen my radio tale and thought I’d appreciate knowing. She was right about that. In this day and age, with family, friends, and acquaintances scattered to the four winds and beyond, months or even years can pass before you learn about something like this. I appreciate her taking the time to let me know, for being that thoughtful.
As you might imagine, I started kicking myself pretty quickly. Along with the thoughts of what an awful time this must be for his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and the others whose lives he was a regular part of, I knew that I had cheated myself out of something I wanted to do. Something that needed doing, at least in my mind. And there is nobody to blame for that failure but me.
I said earlier that I’ve tried for years to live with the message of that old song in mind, and to be honest, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of it. I try not to leave too much unsaid when I feel it needs saying. I’ve been blessed in my life to look back with relatively few regrets about things left unspoken. I’m not bashful about telling the people I love how I feel, I’m not all that reluctant to tell someone that I appreciate something they’ve done or said. I’m sure there have been some folks who thought I was either overly dramatic, talked a little too much, or was just a bit crazy. Better that than to feel like I feel about this, having a regret that there’s simply no way to fix on this side of life.
I’m not actually really big on giving any sort of spiritual lectures to people, and I really don’t plan on using this column to be preachy to anyone, but I want to say this as straight and simple as I can: None of us are guaranteed another minute of life. Not me, not you, not even the people you love most. Life is a fragile thing, and it isn’t something under our personal control.
If there’s something you feel like want or need to say to somebody — whether they’re someone very close and it’s something that seems obvious or if it’s someone who isn’t necessarily a daily part of your life but they’ve played an important role in some way — don’t sit around and wait. If you need to say it, say it. What are you waiting for exactly, an invitation? A perfect moment? More time? You aren’t guaranteed any of those things is ever going to happen. Don’t sit around making excuses, you run the risk of kicking yourself and having no way to fix it.
My prayers go out to Barry’s wife and the rest of his family, his friends, and his radio family at WWEV-FM. If you’re the praying sort, I believe they’d appreciate you remembering them during this difficult time as well.
Let us not wait to do good deeds
Till they have passed away
Now is the time to sow good seeds
While here on earth we stay
Rest In Peace – Barry Holt (1949-2010)