First off, let me tell you, this is not a sad story. There may be some sadness in it, but it is a story of friendship and my own lessons on how to survive when I really had no idea how to save myself.
I am an alcoholic, and so was my friend Mike. We never met each other until we chanced to be in the same self-placed inpatient treatment facility. We learned together (along with many others) on how to understand the physically addicted and deficient people that we all were. The biggest lesson we all learned was how to accept and deal with our physical and emotional dependencies. I will not get into the entire AA sermon here, because the biggest lesson I learned was also one of the most simple.
Mike and I had been out of the treatment center for about a year and had returned to our lives, minus the alcohol. We both still had dependencies for the close companionship of others. We had found that we both had a love of motorcycles and the peacefulness of doing nothing more constructive than riding around, seeing the sights and burning up gas. We did not have to talk; we became like brothers, except only better. We went to ride around the park, up the local canyons and even to the local monastery to see their gardens.
I had been severely injured at work due to a fall and was feeling really depressed about life in general. The thing that kept me and my friend Mike going during these times was our ability to be the counselor for each other. There was never a time when I had not called him that he did not call me right back within a couple of hours. This was the bond we had as friends, even though we worked so far apart most of the time. We got together every chance we could to keep us both on the right track.
I called Mike and as was usual, had to leave a message. I fully expected to hear from him later that evening or the next day. When I had not heard from him for nearly 2 days, I started to become very agitated and anxious as to what could the problem be. Surely there must be something significant that had kept him from returning my call.
On the third day, I received a message from my wife that Mike's wife had called and wanted to speak to me. She said she would be calling later in the afternoon. I started to have very bad vibes about the entire thing, as my wife did not even know what Marylynn wanted to speak to me about.
When Marylynn called, I immediately knew there was something wrong. You see Mike had been killed in an unexplained truck crash on the morning of my call. There were no witnesses and no explanation as to what had happened.
When Marylynn went to Mike's out of town apartment to gather his things, my message was still on the machine. He had never received the call before his death.
I attended my friend's funeral and even though I could hardly walk, I helped carry my friend to his final resting place.
The most spectacular thing about the funeral (if there could be such a thing) was to meet my friend's mother. I was standing at the side of his casket and a woman came up to me. She said, "You must be Barte". I said I was and asked who she could be. She told me that she was Mike's mom and he had spoken to her about me a lot. She explained that he had told her about our little motivational chats and how apparently we had been so beneficial to the life of each other.
She asked me if there was anything that Michael had said to me that would help me to keep on going even after he was gone and I said there was one thing. Mike had told me on day while we were having a cup of coffee, " Don't sweat the little stuff" (actually he used another word for stuff) and I asked him how would I know what was little stuff? He said, "If it isn't life threatening, it is little stuff."
I never have had any single statement affect me as much as that one. The prophetic wisdom in it has saved me countless times. When things seem the blackest, I remember my friend's face and this little statement that didn't seem so significant at the time.
As I said in the beginning, this is not a sad story. It is a story with some sadness but the end of the story has not come. I am still here and my friend Mike is still here too, in my heart and my soul.
Remember: don't sweat the little stuff!!
Copyright © 2010 Barte Hess
I am currently a project Safety Director for a large mechanical contractor. I have had success in my life due to the influence and help from my friends and my greatest friend, my wife. I try to constantly remember the lessons I have learned and to pass them on to others as I pass through this short existence. Lessons are only useful if you pass them on. Thanks to Mike and you for reading this story.
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