Maybe you know a person like this. A person who seems invincible. And by invincible, I don’t mean severe and unapproachable, but rather a tough, resilient person with a good, solid heart. A person so vital you could never imagine the world without them.
These people are like superheroes IRL.
Their lives touch others and make a difference.
The hubs had a friend like that. A physically strong guy, fit and athletic. Add to that a mental toughness and a commitment to doing the right thing and there was a man who could forge ahead through life’s challenges.
He didn’t keep that strength to himself though. He shared it. He taught it. He led. He influenced. But it was never about him. It was all about the greater good that he believed and lived.
I didn’t know him well. I knew him through the people he touched. I live with one of the people he touched. He was a big part of how the man I chose became the man he is.
However, the truth is that no one is really invincible. No one is so vital, so tough, so resilient, even if we can’t imagine the world without them. Not even the hubs’ friend.
One random gunshot and he was gone. It was not particularly aimed at him. Just a general shot in the direction of wherever. In the panic of a robbery. In the middle of nowhere.
Lives were shattered. Pieces were left to be picked up. Except another truth is that some pieces cannot be found. Try as you may, some pieces are collateral damage, never to be seen again.
The funeral was held at the place the hubs and I met. We went back in time and yet we didn’t. As friends from 20 years ago drifted into our field of vision, so did grief and loss.
Over seven hundred people mourned. One careless gunshot caused a lot of unmitigated bereavement. Some at the funeral were men of the same ilk, with that same invincible-with-goodness streak. These big men, the tough boys we once knew, were speechless and tearful.
As we drove back from the airport after the trip we resolved to cherish the friends, the people with whom we have this bond, to keep in touch, to hold on tight, to have no regrets.
We are part of a community with many reasons for joy, and many reasons to go on, and many reasons to believe, as was our friend. Yet the path along the way is tough and must be incredibly difficult for the woman who was left behind.
She shared a story he told that lingers in my mind.
A river is a challenge to a lone fire ant, particularly one in flood. Water easily sweeps a single ant away.
But fire ants cling together and form a ball when they arrive at a river bank.
The ball of ants rolls into the river and floats, although tossed about in the water. Eventually, however, it washes up on dry land. When it rolls onto the safety of the river bank the ants disperse. Out of turmoil, they can survive alone.
The hubs’ friend said we are like those fire ants. If we try to get through the turbulence of life alone, we could be swept away. But if we hold on to each other and support one another, we can survive together. Sometimes you may be the ant on top of the ball. Things are good, you’re dry and hitching a ride. But sometimes you’re the ant at the bottom, under water, struggling to breathe, holding on for dear life. If you let go, you will be swept away. So, no matter how bad things get, we need to stick together to survive and support those drowning in grief.
Although I didn’t know it at that time, going to that funeral, being among those good people who are sacrificing their time and energy for the greater good, as the hubs’ friend was, provided that ant-like support. Being among people who are moving forward and supporting others was like being a fire ant in a ball.
Our good, strong friend is gone for now. The hole he left is raw and gaping. But the ants are all around. We will cling to them in times of trouble and we will be there for those under water. We will make it through, until we meet again.