When You Hear that I’m Gone, Laugh

4 01 2015

It was 30 years ago I found myself sinking into the deepest emotional depression I had ever experienced; onRock _ne of the greatest influences on my life, my Great Aunt Pearl, tragically died in a car accident. This sudden loss of a person that I loved so much was more than I could bear, and if it wasn’t for God’s healing hand on my life, along with people He placed in my path to help me, I dare not think of the shape that I might have stayed in. One of those people was a man I surely didn’t see as a help or comfort at that time; later on I would look back at what he gave me as something precious as gold.

Andrew was about twenty years older than me, worked at the same place I did, but in another department. He always seemed cheerful and could come up with some of the silliest jokes you’d ever heard. I’d sit with him at lunch whenever possible because he just made you feel good, always had uplifting words or something to make me laugh and smile. Andrew could certainly be a little ornery, but generally it was all in fun and everyone knew that about him; one of the main reasons he was liked so well.

But after Pearl’s death I avoided Andrew, I was in no mood for joking around. I didn’t think he’d understand what I was going through so I stayed as far away from him as I could. Now Andrew wasn’t naive, he knew something was going on with me and wasn’t going to let it rest until he knew what. We both worked the late night shift and one morning as I was walking across the parking to get in my car and leave, I felt an arm lock on to mine. It was Andrew and he was saying, “Come on, we’re going to breakfast, my treat.”

There was a little restaurant walking distance from where we were and I could tell trying to say no was fruitless. As we ate, there was a bit of small talk about work and such before he got around to saying, “Now, we’re not leaving here until you tell me what’s going on with you!” Over the next half hour I laid it all out, how Pearl had been my mentor and my closest friend, how much I loved her and how much now it was killing me that she was no longer there for me. There was a noticeable time of silence between us after I finished, but then he began. “Johnny, I want you to do me a favor.” “If I can, what’s that Andrew?” “I’m older than you so I’m probably going to pass before you do. When I do and you hear about it,” and he leaned over the table to look me closer in the eye, “I want you to laugh!” Now I’m a little ticked. I knew I should have never spoken my heart to a man that didn’t take anything seriously; but then he continued.

“Tell me something, have I ever made you happy, made you smile or made you laugh?” “Yes, of course you have like so many others at work.” “Okay, how?” “Well with your stories, your jokes and your positive and carefree attitude, people like a dose of that, it helps get them through the day.” Now he was smiling like he did when he would hook me with one of his jokes. “I wasn’t always that way,” he said, “Growing up was miserable for me and it later made me hard and some folks didn’t like me much, tell the truth I didn’t like myself either. One day I made a decision I would do everything possible to turn that around, to be likeable, fun and even an encouragement. If you think I carry on at work, you ought to see me at home; I do everything I can to make my wife and children laugh, because laughter is one of most beautiful sounds in the world to me.” As I listened, I didn’t see what his attitude of humor had to do with my situation, was I supposed to laugh because a person I loved dearly was now gone? I spoke a few words and got up to leave, until he said, “Let me finish.” “Your Aunt Pearl, she sounds like a wonderful person and I bet a lot of people liked her.” “Of course they did! She had a way to making you feel good and knowing she cared for you. This restaurant would close before I could tell you all wonderful attributes she possessed.” That’s where he stopped me, “So why aren’t you hanging on to all those great things about her instead being so sad?” There was no time to answer before he started again. “When I die, I don’t want people to be sad that I’m no longer here, I want them to remember the things I did that made them happy, made them smile, and even laugh. If I accomplish that, then I know my life had meaning and purpose. Your Aunt Pearl would not want you to be the mess that you are right now, she’d want you to be happy when you thought of her and the things she taught you, that’s how she’d want you to remember her! Then he drove one last nail home, “And aren’t you of the belief she’s in a better place now?” “Yes she is,” I shot out. He didn’t even have to say it, I could see all over his face, a look that said “So shouldn’t you be happy for her then?”

“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” Charles H. Spurgeon

It took time for Andrew’s words to sink in that morning; he wasn’t saying it was wrong for me to have sadness at the loss of my beloved Pearl, but it was if I chose to stay in that sadness instead of remembering and practicing all the great lessons she passed on to me; there was truly more to be happy about than sad, I realize that now. Thanks Andrew, you silly ornery old cuss you!!!

I still think about Pearly Mae often, but now-a-days it’s with a smile, and sometimes even a little laughter; after all she’d want it that way. And like her and my bud Andrew I’m making efforts to paint positive marks on the lives I touch, particularly my family who I’m sure will have plenty of stories of how the old man made them laugh, and even learn.

As I continue my “Travels on the Rock Road,” I thank God for the Pearls and the Andrews he places in my path to help me with the journey.  I probably will never know what’s said about me when I’m gone, I hope it’s what I’ve tried to get across to others about me, life and my Lord. I guess the most important thing I’ll want to hear when the time comes is this, “You have fought the good fight, You have finished the race, You have kept the faith. Welcome home, my son.” Awesome!!
A Blessed and Happy 2015, Friends and Family. See you next time!!


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