That Box of Chocolates

Forrest Gump had it right when he quoted his momma:  “Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get.”

Perhaps that quote is a very accurate view about life. Try as we might to see into our futures— we never really know what life will bring us.

In 1975, six young men graduated from college. As different as they were from their Maryland, North Carolina, and Florida upbringings something clicked.

 Somehow, during the last 44 years, they have maintained and nurtured their friendships.

 Weddings, births of children, divorces, coming out, passing of parents, successful careers, arrival of grandchildren, and talking about  all of their ups and downs have always been shared. Shared at an annual gathering when calendars match and a location is secured for a weekend.

At this stage in my life, if I was hanging by my last pinkie, I know one of my pals would be there for me. And, I would do the same for them.

Recently, one of my college pals and his wife experienced the tragedy no parent wants. And frankly, the experience that no parent deserves—the loss of a child.

In this case, their youngest son was gunned down. This occurred after spending a delightful boat outing on a quiet lake in Arizona with his wife who is expecting their first child. 

We may never know why an employee at the marina pulled the trigger.  But, I know this, his decision was reckless—senseless, and not required.

In those fast moving seconds, lives were forever altered.

It took days for courage to nudge my heart in reaching out to my pal and his wife. 

What do you say? 

In this uncharted territory, maybe it isn’t what I say as a friend, but how I listen to my devastated pal.

Late in the summer, a memorial service was held for their son. 

In my careers, I’ve attended a lot of funeral services. But, I don’t think I have ever witnessed such an outpouring of love in the celebration of a person’s life as was shown for my pal’s son. It was incredible.

But the courage of that afternoon came from my pal’s wife. 

At the appropriate time in the service, she spoke as only a mother can. Her words were exactly what they should have been—laughter, tears, honesty, and her love.

From a distance, I knew about the ups and downs of their son’s life. He struggled. You name it—the struggles confronted him.

Yet, somehow, someway, he beat those struggles. It was a transformation. A transformation like none I have ever witnessed.

The changing of his life created an opportunity for him to transform other lives. His life’s passion, his drive, energy, and determination became transforming the lives of parents and their children.

He was very, very, very good at this. He made a lasting impact on the families. He transformed not only their lives, but the lives of people around him as well.

And that might be the real question for me in the aftermath of this horrible, horrible tragedy. 

How might this senseless loss be used to transform me?

How might I use me to change this thinking in our society—  pulling the trigger of a firearm should not always be the solution to a problem.

Our annual gathering this fall was at Smith Mountain Lake in what I consider the best month of the year—October.

We talked. We laughed. We cried. We shared. We remembered. We hugged. We loved.

And deep inside each of us, “why” was pinging and ricocheting—why, why, why? Why did such a horrible, awful tragedy occur?

That piece of chocolate in the box that brings lives to an abrupt end due to the gun violence in our country needs to be forever tossed out.

Our country desperately needs to experience a transformation for the good.

That struggle for transformation will depend upon our capacity to reshape our hearts. Not only our hearts, but also the hearts we encounter on a daily basis.

This will require building relationships in an emotional territory.

That will not be easy. 

But, our hearts can’t afford not to try.

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