Halloween each year marks an anniversary of the day my little brother died. He was 16 years old. I was 19. Though many years have passed since this event, it remains likely the single-most defining moment of my life. It changed me and continues to change me the more or less I come to understand life. We all have events like this that shape us in ways we may or may not understand.
Prior to my brother’s death, I had a pretty clear vision of my life’s direction. A scripted and well-defined path to the “American dream” was being paved before me, by me. After his death, I was armed with more questions than answers. This legacy of questions remains. Questions about “purpose” and “meaning” haunt me.
All of the things that were so clear became muddy and for a long time, this left me unsettled. Through the years, I have become comfortable in the mud. I don’t think many true answers exist. Life is life and joy is joy and time passes until it doesn’t any more.
Understanding that my questions produced only more questions and not the answers I was hoping for, I let go of the expectation that genuine clarity would reveal itself to me and now mostly enjoy the peace in my uncertainty. Great humor and love lives in the absurdity of our human spirits. Our world spins on laughter and tears and a touch. These are things I KNOW and I am happy I know them.
For all the questions that will remain unanswered, a few diamonds of truth have been found. I am crystal clear on a very few important things. I know what and who I value. Though I may not always know where I’m going, I know who I’m traveling with. This may be the only important thing there is to know.
Our companions in this life are what matters. They are the “what” and the “why”. The people we share a windshield with as we navigate the roads we travel are the truth. The ones that stand the tests of time and circumstance live as the truest of truths and are the most valuable answer I have found.
Life is a zero-sum game. When we lose something, we gain something else. I lost my brother, but I gained an appreciation for things I would not have had before. My entire value perspective changed and this changed everything else. And I wouldn’t change this. It allows me to be kind, to care about things that deserve my care, and to not care about things that do not.
With the quiet fierceness of conviction, I stubbornly drive my vehicle wherever my heart says to go. And as my shotgun riders crack another beer, I smile and turn up the radio and know that life is just life and a moment on a dusty backroad with a friend or a family is the only answer that makes sense. And I’m ok with that…
[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, whose first book is called “A Feel Good Life” (buy it on Amazon here). He also runs the new Waterland Arcade, located at 22306 Marine View Drive South. Dave extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, Dave needs more friends – find him on Facebook here.