A Life Well Lived

I am an old man. I have lived many lives in my lifetime, I have been many things. I have been a son, a man, a soldier, a patient, a drifter, a sweetheart, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a widower. There have been rough patches and pain, but the love and good times have made my life worth all of them. I wouldn’t trade one minute of my life.

I started life as a son, that part of my life was long ago, and seems to me too short of a time. Sooner than I wanted I became a man. That’s what happens when your father dies in the garden and you are the oldest son of a family of nine. At the young age of 14 I became the man of the house. I spent the next four years running the farm, teaching my brothers, and doing school work by candle light because I was determined to learn.

Before I turned 18 a war broke out, The Great War they called it. I was drafted in the day I came of age and began my life as a soldier. That period of my life was long and painful. I try not to remember it too much, but in nightmares it comes back to me. To this day I will wake sweating from a dream screaming for my platoon brothers. They never answer, they didn’t that terrible day either. After that horrendous day I entered a time in my life where I was a patient. A grueling time that I would also love to forget. It was hard work getting back on my feet, but with great perseverance I made it.

After I came home from the war I came back to my mothers home and took over the farm, during that time I was a drifter. A dreamer. I didn’t know where my life was going, and I didn’t care. In this day in age all the docs would have called it depression, maybe they’d be right. All I know is that I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have any dreams, and my well of hope, it had run dry.

All my life I had been dragged from one phase to another. I was born a son but by the age of 14 I was forced to become a man. After four hard years of running my family I was forced by my country to go to war. After that day when the world blew up around me I was forced to become a patient. I was sent to a hospital and they healed my body and discharged me because I could be of no more use to them. They forced me back home into a civilian life. I was lost, I had choices now, but I didn’t know how to make choices. I had never been taught.

After a long hot summer in the fields my dear sweet mother convinced me to take her to revival in the next town over. I bathed, put on a clean suit, and drove her to the church. That night I walked into that white clapboard church and led my mama to a wooden pew half way down the aisle. She insisted I go in first, and not being one to question my mama I complied. I shuffled into the seat and sat down, the girl sitting next to me turned and introduced herself. The minute our eyes locked I was swept into a new phase of my life, I went from being a drifter civilian to a sweetheart, I hadn’t even heard her name yet.

Mary, her name was Mary, and she was exquisite. She had shiny dark hair, and deep brown eyes. Her olive skin was set off by her cream dress, and her voice was like a bird. We chatted a little before the service that night, and every night after we sat next to each other at the services. At the end of revival I had certainly been revived, but I really think that had everything to do with Mary. I asked her that night if I could come a calling after her. She agreed and I spent the next month on her porch drinking sweet tea and getting lost in a world where only she and I existed. I finally plucked up the courage and asked her to spend the rest of her life with me. That day she said yes, and a short two months later I entered the time of my life called husband. It was the first choice I had been able to make for myself, and the greatest choice of my life.

Two years after she made me a husband, Mary ushered  me into the phase called fatherhood. It was and is an amazing phase. We spent the next 13 years adding 5 more jewels to the crown of parenthood. Our children, Carl, Bo, John Thomas, Eddie, Clarey, and Ellie were the greatest blessings she ever could have given me. We raised our babies on my family farm, I taught the boys the ways of the land and Mary taught all the children how to love learning. We made sacrifices to make sure our kids received a proper education, we sent them all to the local high school in town. That is where our oldest boy Carl met his high school sweetheart, Sarah.

We knew the moment we saw them together that they were each others forever. It seemed like only yesterday that he had been born, and there I was standing beside him while he was marrying his love. Ten months later my first grandchild, Billy after his grandpa, was born. Mary and I were grandparents, what a miraculous phase. One by one we watched each of our six children find the kind of love we had and begin new families and new lives. Our children blessed us with 24 grandbabies over the course of our lives. The day our last daughter Ellie married and moved out we started our final phase together, empty nesters.

What a wonderful moment in life that was, full of togetherness and laughter and some of the sweetest times I have ever known. We cherished that time together, it was a beautiful fall season of our lives. Every day was lit with the golden light of love, friendship, and caring. Days were filled with reading, cooking, some traveling, but mostly being together. It truly was the happiest time of my life.

My beautiful Mary died 11 short years into our fall, plunging me into winter, and forcing me into a phase called widower. It was the first time since I met her that I hadn’t made an active choice bringing me to this phase. With her passing my old friend depression came back to visit, only this time there were doctors and pills and other people to take care of. I have been muddling through this cold foggy world for fifteen years. I have seen the world enter another war, I have buried my oldest boy Carl, and I am tired. I have lived my life, I have had great love in my life, and  am ready to enter into eternal rest. I await the day anxiously that my Mary will come to me and lead me home.

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