A wise man once said the dash between the years in someone’s epitaph represents their life lived. He went on to say he was happy he'd been a part of that dash in his friend's life who had just passed away. I wrote a poem a short time back called, "A Moment In Time," reflecting a similar concept. Life is nothing but moments in time; good or bad, they can never be relived. Life seems to come and go whether you want it to or not. Family, friends, love found, love lost, and love given are all a part of life, but it doesn’t make the stinging any less painful when tragedy happens…
The day before my sister Michelle passed away, I ran into her at Publix where she worked. She seemed somewhat surprised to see me but happy all the same. She told me she was sick with the flu and had come in to work another person’s shift. This was a little puzzling to me but not to out of the norm for a Hodges to help someone out, even if they weren’t feeling well. I think we get this trait from our father. He’s a kind man that has spent a lifetime helping others, expecting nothing in return. My sister and I had a short discussion about what her wishes were if something ever happened to her. I didn’t think this was to out of the norm because of something our other sister Laura has said countless times, “The Hodges have always lived their lives with a since of urgency.” Never putting off 'til tomorrow. Smiling, I said, “Nothing’s going to happen to you, Michelle.”
Anyways, I told her she needed to go home and get some rest. She absolutely looked like hell. She just smiled and insisted on giving me a hug, and I insisted on telling her if she did I was going to catch the flu. With a stern look she said, “You better give me a hug.” I did, and that’s the last part of the dash in Michelle’s life I was a part of.
A day or so later, I was walking out my door headed to the Suwannee River to spend the weekend, when my phone rang. It was my mother. She asked if I was sitting down and if someone was with me. I knew instantly the next words would be that someone had passed away. I replied, “Did someone die?” She told me she had found my sister that morning. After making sure my mother was okay and was with plenty of family, I told her I needed to get away for a few days. I couldn’t deal with the world at that point. She said she understood, and I started for the river.
It seemed like I sat by the river for weeks but it was only two days. I couldn’t stop thinking about my sister and others that had passed away in my life. I told my mother before I left that I would speak at Michelle’s funeral. As I sat in the drizzling cold rain, I watched the river flow past like it had for thousands of years. I was thinking at the time how much life was like that river; constantly moving by, whether we’re here or not. I felt incredibly guilty for not hearing her words more clearly. I knew she had struggled with depression for years, but sometimes I think you don’t want to hear what someone is saying to you. Hindsight seems to be 20/20 all the time, yet hindsight can comeback to bite you, if you spend to much time there.
Arriving home, I started to write what I was going to say the next day. Some of the good times I had with Michelle. Her taking me for walks in the woods behind our home when I was a small child. Woods that seemed to be a strange new world of shadows and mystery; animals and strange sounds. She would reach out her hand, looking down at me with her big brown eyes and a warm smile. I would take hold, gripping it with my little fingers. She would say, “Follow me,” and the woods didn’t seem so bad. As I wrote, I could only think that whatever or wherever she was, she would be one of the first to meet me when it was my time to go, with an outstretched hand saying, “Follow me,” and it wouldn’t seem so bad.
Before I knew it, the next day had arrived, and I was standing at the pulpit. I had never spoken in front of anyone before, especially under those circumstances, but sometimes in life you have to do the unthinkable. I was sick by this point with the flu, and my fever had still not broken. I felt as if I were going to pass out. For a brief moment, before I started to speak, I thought of the irony of me being sick with my sister’s cold… A germ alive in me that was alive in her days before. But at that moment I was happy to be sick for it meant I'd hugged her one last time…