I’ve seen a lot of years come and go. There are many New Years celebrations that are nothing more than a date on a calendar. I have no recollection of the events surrounding those, what I am sure were, magnificent soirees. I am the former life-of-the-party.
This is kind of a banner year for me. It’s 25 years since 1987, one of the worst years of my life and at the same time one of the best years of my life. It was a tragedy/triumph kind of year, a victory/defeat kind of year, it was a ‘you can run but you can’t hide’ kind of year.
I don’t remember January 1, 1987 anymore than I remember the day of my birth. I can only think in generalities. I know I was getting ready to go to Belgium to work. I was to spend several weeks living and working in a facility of the coast of Belgium. Just before I was to head across the ocean, I got a phone call from home. My nephew had died in a car crash the night before. It was March 4th.
Two days later MS Herald of Free Enterprise, a roll on/roll off car ferry commissioned to ferry cars on the Dover–Calais route, sank leaving the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium. Over the next several weeks I was to watch that salvage operation. It was the worst maritime disaster for a U.K. registered vessel since the sinking of the Titanic, taking 193 passengers and crews to a cold, watery grave.
I don’t remember much of being in Belgium. I know I stayed at the Holiday Inn in Brugge and spent evenings exploring the many bars and pubs the city had to offer. Weekends were spent exploring distant cities – Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, St. Pauli, London, and others.
Still grieving the loss of my nephew I massaged my pain with vodka. I returned from Belgium several weeks later in quite the state. From March to August I went about the business of drowning my sorrow. I honestly have little recollection of those months.
I know in early August I was back in divorce court. By the end of the month I was in the hospital detoxing from excess. Little would I know how much my life would change. I haven’t seen a drunk Christmas since.
The one constant in life is change. Days on the calendar click by like mileposts on the highway and we mark them with our presence. Life is not about what I could wrest out of it, it was what I could put into it. In my failings I missed a lot of life’s lessons but thankfully it’s never too late to start learning.
Here’s looking ahead to another year on the calendar where I have the opportunity to be of service. My part is to bring a willingness to serve and a humility to not expect anything in return. My favorite thing is to do something nice for somebody else and not get caught doing it.
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson