My Empire of Dirt

“What have I become, my sweetest friend. Everyone I know goes away in the end.

As most everyone knows, I had a good friend die recently. A wonderful man and am so glad I had the pleasure of knowing him. This past weekend we had the wonderful experience of emptying two storage rooms he had filled to the brim and that was just the beginning of the STUFF he had amassed over his 80 something years. I don’t know why he collected some of the things he did and why he didn’t throw some of that God awful crap away but he didn’t. Seeing all that stuff and the fact that I have been dealing with his death made me think of my impending doom and the things that I have collected over the years, a lot being in the God awful crap category. My stuff isn’t to the extent of Noi’s stuff but will be crap nevertheless to my wife if she has to deal with it. For instance my foam rubber brick that I throw at the TV during whatever Tar Heel game I’m watching. The size 32 waist blue jeans that I still have in hopes that when I lose some weight I’ll be able to fit into them. The Corona neon light that I have in my office that still works after 20 years. The Three Stooges golf picture that I have in my office, The piggy bank that I have that hasn’t had a dime in it in the last 25 years and even if it did the bottom plug is missing so when you lifted the piggy bank up the change would fall right out. Did I mention a old girl friend gave me that? Don’t tell Rebecca and who can forget all the UNC paraphernalia I have amassed over a lifetime.

As I get older I find myself thinking about death more. I don’t dwell on it 24 hours a day but I do think about it. Several year ago Johnny Cash remade a Trent Reznor song (Nine Inch Nails) “Hurt.” Ask someone to name a song that always has the power to reduce them to tears, and the chances are they’ll swiftly reply “Johnny Cash,”Hurt”. The video to this day haunts me. We don’t see the cool Johnny Cash of the past, what we see is a frail Johnny Cash with arthritic fingers trying to play his guitar and his piano. A old Johnny Cash who is bald and wrinkled. Razor’s version delivers a tale about addiction. Cash delivers a sermon on mortality. What Hurt meant to Johnny Cash is between him and his maker. Confession? Self-exorcism? The exit interview? The words spill from his mouth as if it means a lot, perhaps everything.

And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down

I will make you hurt”

Noi’s death has caused me to reflect. To question what is important, to look at my own faith. I’m getting up in years and as my friend and pastor, Alan Callahan once gave a wonderful sermon on “The Dash”. When your life is over, everything you did will be represented by a single dash between two dates—what will that dash mean for the people you have known and loved? Did you make an impact on anyone’s life, have you done anything positive in life that people will remember your “Dash”. Have you made a difference or have you just been one of those when the day comes the best you can do is say you had a couple of sweet pairs of UNC underwear.

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