At 6 a.m. on January 3, 2018, the day Charlie died, my great-nephew Huxley was born. Charlie was unresponsive that morning, though his heart continued its job for almost 9 more hours. It was pretty much impossible not to conjure up the strains of that Blood, Sweat and Tears song, “And when I die and when I’m gone there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on.” (I’ll bet many of you finished that tune in your heads.)
So, being the case that a child was born to carry on, then baby Huxley has some pretty big shoes to fill – size 12s – and an equally generous spirit to go along with them.
I’d like to think they met up with one another on their respective journeys – one toward life, one toward its end – and I’m pretty sure they whiled away some time together, too. Charlie, being the kind of person he was, would have struck up a conversation. I bet it went something like this:
Hey, kid. Welcome to the planet. It really is an amazing place, although right now it’s a little messed up. To tell the truth, that’s our fault, we humans. We’ve been irresponsible. It could go either way, but some of us are working pretty hard to fix things before we all go the way of the Dodo. For your sake, I hope it goes well.
What’s a Dodo? Yeah, it’s a bird. Extinct. Funny looking. Be sure to google Dodo Bird once you figure out what the Internet is.
Anyway, take it from me, you’re stepping, well crawling at first, into an amazing journey. I think you’ll find that life’s pretty precious. Since you’re coming in as I’m going out, let’s rest a minute, you and me, and let me fill you in a bit. I’m not usually big on advice, but death has a way of changing your perspective. I’m sure birth does, too, but you won’t remember that.
Besides, if you ARE the one born into this world to carry on after me, then there are some things we need to cover now:
First, fall in love with music – listening to it, singing with it, making it. It’s a must. If there’s one thing you must do, it’s to learn how to play guitar. My suggestion? Start asking for one as early as possible. It may be too much to hope you’ll be left handed, but if you are, you can have my 12-string acoustic electric Ovation. I bought it back in 1980 or so, and it’s gone with me everywhere. It’s sweet. That means you also need to love John Denver. Everyone, absolutely everyone, can sing at least one or two of his songs. You can’t go wrong with a guitar and a John Denver songbook. Be sure to remember that.
Second, soak up everything. I mean everything. Be curious. Enjoy life. If you wind up having five or six different jobs or careers, well, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t stress about being something someone else expects of you. Just be authentic. You’ll be happier. You know, I skied for living for a couple of years, did some Public Relations work, helped at an Equine Center, spent years in hospitals helping patients figure out insurance stuff and billing, then actually got to work in the operating room helping with surgeries (pretty cool). I even drove a Coca Cola delivery truck one summer. I always worried that I didn’t live up to some people’s expectations, but I finally figured out that what mattered most was that I lived up to mine. There’s no job that doesn’t make a difference to someone or something.
What’s that? What did I like most? Good question. I don’t think it was any particular job. It would have to be the one thing that carried throughout all them: helping others. And that’s really the third thing I need to tell you – be kind, Always. Be helpful to people, even strangers. Be slow to anger and quick to smile. Take care of people, but not so much that you lose yourself. Above all, be accepting. I always tried to be thoughtful to anyone I met, so if you’re going to carry on after me, then that’s probably rule No. 1. Be friends with the nerds, stand up to the bullies, befriend the friendless, and don’t ever be afraid to stretch out your hand to help. This world’s too beautiful and people are too precious to spend it hating one another or looking down on people because they’re different. So just don’t do that. If you do, I may have to come back to haunt you. Just kidding.
Fourth, get an education, whatever kind of education works for you. Knowledge is worth having. Work toward college, but if something else captures your passion, then go for it. You can get a lot of education by traveling, too, so be sure to go places. But if you’re like me, and I’m counting on that, you’ll really love the outdoors and all the beauty this planet has to offer. Me? I loved the West and the Southwest and the wild places on earth. You will too.
Gosh, it’s getting late. I think we both have places to be, so we’d better head our separate ways. Oh, two words before we go: Star Trek. You’re gonna love it. When you finally get around to watching movies, ask for Star Trek and remember these names: Kirk, Spock, Picard, Janeway, Archer … well,, it doesn’t really matter specifically, I guess. Just remember Star Trek. If you’re going to fill the shoes I’ve left behind, you’ll have to be a Trekkie. Besides, there are great life lessons in those movies and books. Star Wars is OK, you know, but it’s not quite the same.
So, good luck, Kid. Godspeed. Everybody’s waiting for you. Say hello to the family, OK? Tell ‘em about our talk. Of course, in the rush of being born, you may forget. No worries. Just give them a hug and a kiss for me.
Live Long and Prosper.