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Smile because it happened

Aug 25, 2013 - Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

Maybe it's a sign of advancing age, but I've been to an inordinate number of funerals this summer. As the common cliché rings out, the only two things in life that are truly certain are death and taxes.

Funerals come in all varieties. Some are simply another religious service where the recently departed is rarely mentioned in the process of the ceremony. Others are tributes with long slideshows set to music in large auditoriums. Most exist somewhere between these two extremes.

It should be noted that funerals are not for the deceased. The message shouldn't be addressed to them but rather to their surviving friends and family.

The legendary Yogi Berra once said, "You should always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they might not come to yours."

A final slide prepared by the family of my friend Leroy Hayes at his funeral last week in Thermopolis put a different spin on the finality of a final tribute. They selected one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Seuss: "Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened."

Too many times in this mortal plane we dwell on the things that have passed. The seasons come and go, youthful strength and vigor fade and friends, family and beloved pets leave us. Yet it is all a passage, just one more step on the path of life.

As August makes its annual passage into the inevitable change that comes with September here on the high desert, many of us take time to reflect on the wonderful days of summer that just blew by at an incredible pace.

As the song "The End," sung by Earl Grant, is quick to note, "At the end of a highway there's no place you can go ... at the end of a river, the water stops its flow ... at the end of a story, you'll find it's all been told."

Seemingly everything that has a beginning must have an end, at least in this existential plane. Watching your children from the moment of birth, through childhood and on to adulthood with all their successes and setbacks is another of life's memorable moments, albeit one that continues on for a very long time. It's not a single event but a series of moments that remain in your memory with a daughter or son.

Finding your soul mate and growing old together is another of the joys of life.

As my career changed recently I had ample opportunity to reflect on the moments that made a career in education memorable.

It will come as no surprise that not a single training session, in-service or meeting even comes close to the surface, but moments with students in class, on the field and in the gym bubble to the surface of my memory with no effort at all.

As we boarded the bus at about 11 p.m. on a sub-zero night in Casper back in February 1988, the boys and I were in that ethereal realm that only comes with winning. The last Shoshoni boys state championship in any athletic venue lies a quarter-century back in time, but the sensation of that night remains with me. The smell of the diesel fumes, floating close to the ground as they do on a cold night brings back many coaching memories each time a bus passes.

The thousands of voices that made a gymnasium a living entity have departed into the darkness and only the quiet of the journey home remains. It comes to an end.

One night a few years after that evening in 1988 I was sitting on the bench with my friend Harold Bailey and things weren't going well on the basketball court. It wasn't a memorable season.

Harold is always great with comments that perfectly fit the scene and he leaned over to me and said, "This season is like a bad marriage: It just goes on and on and then it's over." It made me laugh but a few moments later Harold pointed to the state championship banner hanging on the far wall of the gym. It felt like an eternity since it was placed there, when it was really only a few years earlier. "No matter how hard it gets, no matter what the SOB's in the crowd complain about, they can't take that away from us or the boys," Harold said.

It was a tribute to good ending.

In the end, the accolades don't really matter. The trophies and awards are nice, but they don't fill the emotional and spiritual needs of a cognizant person. Possessions don't matter at all either. While corporations endlessly preach buy, buy, buy, it is a hollow chorus that can't fill one's innermost needs.

In the end, it's friendships, relationships and playing the game hard, playing it fair and playing it with honor that matter in life. If you do that, you've found the meaning of life.

If you're brave enough to face the wrongs of the world, to take them on in whatever capacity you have, you've found another key to the mysterious ways of existence as a human being.

To quote another phrase from "The End," "Love has a treasure our hearts always spend and it has a story without any end."

Sometimes it doesn't end. That's the beauty of memory.

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