Life is Short, Seize the Day

I ran into an old friend today.  We had a lot of the same classes in junior high.  His name is Tim.  He saw me driving and made a u-turn to say hello. We talked for 30 minutes.  We talked about childhood memories. The conversation turned to gratitude.  We are both grateful to be alive.  We went down the list of friends that have gone on, passed away, left us.  We say it like they took a train trip and might just be back on Monday.  But they won’t.  Tim said in parting, “Yeah, I saw Mike Pearson at Ron Haight’s funeral.”  “What!!! What do you mean, Ron Haight’s funeral!?”  Apparently one of the oldest friends I have fell a long distance (he was in the roofing business for 40 years) and didn’t survive the surgery.  We were the exact same age.  He was gone.  I never got to say goodbye.

When I was 11 years old, I played baseball for Gus Cooper.  We had a great team.  We won the Mid-City Championship that year. Ron Haight was one of our pitchers and played third base.  He was the best 11 year old on our team.  He always made us laugh.  He was one the most naturally gifted comedians who never tried to be funny.  Years later, we both coached Little League baseball. Our boys were the same age. We were watching one of the bigger 10 year olds hit.  His name was Matt.  He blasted one into deep center field and barely made it first base in time for a single.  Ron, with a Cheshire Cat smile, observed, “He runs like his shoes are too big!”  We all cracked up.  30 years later, he was still making people laugh.

I can remember having a cigar with Ron on the roof of a building in the early 90’s. He called them “Thinking Sticks”.  We were both in Sales.  He sold large roofing projects for his Father’s company, Haight Roofing.  Ron’s Grandfather started the company.  It was the largest roofing company in town.  They did the roof of the Tacoma Dome.  I recently gave up cigars.  I won’t lie, I miss them and I miss my friend Ron.  Ron was right, they ARE “Thinking Sticks.”  I did a lot of thinking and writing with a cigar in hand.

The night before I went into the military in 1976, Ron stopped by my parents house to wish me well.  I think he thought I was going off to war.  I assured him it was just to Texas for Basic Training.  I would be home for Christmas.  Ron was thoughtful like that.  You see, he and I went all the way back to the first grade.  He used to make me laugh in class and I would get in trouble.  He seemed to always avoid the wrath of the teacher.  He was smooth, very bright, loyal and kind.

Death makes life precious.  It reminds us that this journey ends eventually for each of us.  To quote Jim Morrison, “No one here gets out alive.”  How true.  We just don’t think it will happen to us.

As I reflect on this recent “Rite of Passage” (the death of a childhood friend), I am reminded of Steven King’s short story “The Body” (later made into the film “Stand By Me”).  The narrator is reflecting back upon his childhood because of the news of his friend’s passing.  Here are some of my thoughts on the things Ron Haight taught me.  I hope they help you.

  1. Heal any old wounds from your past. Forgive and forget.  Let it go. When someone passes away, it’s too late.
  2. Reach out to old childhood friends and get together with them on a regular basis, just to reminisce.
  3. Hug your kids.  When I told my youngest son Evan about Ron’s passing, he stopped, gave me big hug and told me he was sorry about my friend.
  4. Take the time to relax, slow down, take in a sunset, a baby’s smile, a dog running on the beach with reckless abandon.  If you are not careful, you’ll miss it.  The little joys of life.
  5. Take that exotic and expensive vacation you have been dreaming about.  Do it.  You never know.  If you put it off, you might not ever get to Australia.  That would be a shame.  Everyone should get to see Kangaroos Boxing.
  6. Laugh every day.  Look for and find the funny things life has to offer.  That kid DOES run like his shoes are too big.
  7. Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life. Ron was in the Roofing business for over 40 years.
  8. Stop hanging around negative people.  Anchors away.
  9. Live everyday as if it were your last, one day, you will be right.
  10. When something good happens, write it down.  Take lots of pictures.  When a loved one or an old friend is gone, it will help you remember the good times you had.  Life is short. Seize the day.

I have a picture of Ron Haight pitching in 1968. It’s an old black and white. I am playing first base.  We were both 11 years old.  The guy threw smoke.  His nickname was “Cheese”.  He had the biggest set of teeth you ever saw.  He smiled more than anyone I knew.  He had a lot to smile about.  I miss him.  He was my friend.  I bet you he is making God laugh as they enjoy a “thinking stick” together.  He could charm a cat off a fish truck….goodbye old friend.

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