Louisville, Kentucky never held a special place in my heart. When I was in high school, I visited a church there and worked on some building projects for about a week. Recently, I have been tasked with helping a site in this city as a part of what I do for a living. Today, while traveling to this part of the world, I heard a lyric from a Wyclef Jean song.
“Pouring sips of liquor out for my fallen squad” or something to that effect. My mind immediately went out to my friend Bill. A couple of years, or a year, or a lifetime ago, I’m not sure, I got word that Bill had passed. My mind took me to the roof of the Baptist Student Union at the University of Tennessee, where we smoked cigars drank non-alcoholic beer as we watched countless sunsets and talked about life. I thought it might be that I would smoke a cigar tonight in his honor. Then, as the miles passed, I grew increasingly angry.
One of the stories that I heard about Bill insinuated that he had killed himself. If you knew Bill, you know what a shock this story came to those hearing it for the first time. Bill was all the best that is in each of us. Bill and I smiled all the time back in our college days. There is probably a blog about him on this website. I was mad at Bill. And I cried while driving. In my mind, cussing him, and wondering where he got off taking such a life away from those who loved him.
Then I got a sense of peace as I remembered those who have passed after spending a time in my life. I thought of my mother, who loved Bill, and Bill’s father, who died soon after Bill. I thought of them together, enjoying whatever the passing from this world brings. I forgave Bill, gave a silent pardon if you will. I spoke and said aloud, in a car alone, “It’s cool, Dude”.
At that moment, somewhere outside or just inside of Louisville, Kentucky, I saw an exit sign I had not seen in my recent trips. Billtown Rd. Bill nodded back, and said, “It’s cool, Dude”. Bill was a friend, that if you were lucky enough to have, you never doubted he was on your side. It has taken me some time to admit he pissed me off that day. But I think we are finally square. And for what it is worth, through whatever God has provided for such things, I still feel like he is on my side.
Life is both sad and happy at the same time. There are mysteries I do not understand and graces that I take for granted. When I think back on my times with an old friend, I feel like a teenager believing that life is simple. Black and white. That God is on the side of whatever group I choose to be a part of. Experience has taught me that God is bigger than what most choose to believe and that our brothers and sisters might very well be in groups we feel are in opposition to the Divine.
Do I really believe that this trip to Louisville held a message from a friend I have not seen in years? I do. Do I understand that this type of belief is unorthodox and might be considered insane? I do.
These days I enjoy listening to stories that people tell. I like hearing books on Audible. My days start with some music and light meditation and they end with a word of thanks. The middle part is full of finding order in what appears to be the chaos of living. That is what makes me happy.
You can have CNN and Fox news. You can have your Southern Baptist verses Catholic theological debates. You can have your 100,000 mile warranties and brighter, whiter, smiles. It all seems meaningless to me. If it is meaningful to others, more power to them. I miss the days that I had the time, and the opportunity, to hang out with Bill. And as crazy as it sounds, I feel like I got to do that again today in the short time it took to catch an interstate exit sign out of the corner of my eye.