Cycles of Life

We all learn early in life that our days are comprised of feelings and events, many of which we have no influence over, that span the spectrum of emotions. Sometimes good and happy attitudes and outlooks abound and life seems easy and full of promise. Other times, depressing or negative events and feelings wash over us and seem to control our lives, wiping out those promises of happiness and a bright future. Such feelings or events might last a few minutes or they may stick around for days on end.
This past week was one that typified consecutive days of weather, events, and emotions that were successful in darkening my mood and giving the feeling of a sad weight on my shoulders that I didn't want but couldn't get rid of. The weather certainly played a large role in this. Cool, windy, wet and cloudy, it set the stage for a theater of the poignant and cheerless.
An emotionally-charged ride through cool and damp conditions last Saturday certainly set the stage. Low, dark, and dreary clouds being blown across the sky by a strong wind and occasional drizzle was the somber setting for the Vietnam Veterans Legacy Ride to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in downtown Lansing. Even on a bright and cheerful day going to this monument is like going to The Wall in Washington. It is impossibly difficult to explain the emotions of seeing the names of friends that I knew before entering the service, and whom I met while in Vietnam, etched in marble. Typical guys, forever nineteen; frozen in place for future generations to gaze at and wonder about. Who were they; what were they like; how did they die; why did they die? I and many others could still answer those questions, but it does no good now. Families and friends have either reconciled themselves to their losses, or they just want to let time heal the wounds and move on. No value in retelling the same stories that always end badly.

The memories aren't carved in marble - they're locked in flesh and blood - and will one day disappear altogether. But time has moved on and already few know or care about those nearly 60,000 young men and the lives they lived, or who they might have become had they been given the chance that most get in life.

Monday morning saw me in Middleville at the funeral of a young man killed the prior week in Afghanistan. The huge outpouring of respect, honor, and love shown for this corporal was overwhelming. Another young life cut tragically short in the making of the American tapestry, but family and friends were not going to let Cpl. Roush become just another black and white statistic. He was going to be remembered for what he was; an intelligent, interesting, fun-loving and caring young man who left a greater mark on the world than his young years might suggest.
Events that are beyond our control and sometimes even beyond our ability to fathom.

The death of Senator Teddy Kennedy mid-week added to the sense of gloom. I know he was a man who caused strong and passionate feelings - some loved him while others cared little for him or his beliefs and public policies. But I am of an age whereby the legacy of the Kennedys still evokes very strong feelings and emotional reactions. I have many memories of this unique American family. I was a fan of John Kennedy as a middle schooler when he became president and his murder struck me very hard. I was in Vietnam when Bobby Kennedy was killed. Again, I was devastated, and the distance of thousands of miles from home only made the feelings more overwhelmingly sad and desperate. Seeing the TV flashbacks on the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy replayed several times during the latter part of this week just deepened the funk and brought back a lot of very unpleasant memories and feelings.
I still find it hard to listen to Dion Dimucci's song Abraham, Martin and John. These events, and this song, mark a sad point in our country's timeline. As an early teen I recall Dion's songs being lively and fun tunes about teen age romance and the carefree life of an innocent generation. Following 1968 in particular the angst of a nation turned this teenage heart throb into a man whose song brought tears to our eyes and a lump in our throat. How things had changed in a few short years.
Like every other human on this planet Teddy Kennedy wasn't a saint, but he grew into a man who devoted his life to advocating for those without the power or means to fight for themselves, and for this he had, and his memory has, my undying respect. As do his brothers, who died in service to this incredible country. If you have the good fortune to be in a position whereby you do not need people like Senator Kennedy fighting on your behalf, consider yourself very fortunate and count your blessings. And don't be so smug so as to claim that it was your own hard work and wise decisions that placed you in your lofty situation. To claim such would be extreme arrogance. It was the work of millions that lived before you, some of whom died on your behalf, who paved the way and allowed you to live a life of security, wealth, and peace.

The rain and gloom continued through this Saturday, and even a day at the MI HOG Rally couldn't shake it. The first two days of the rally were wet and cold, but finally on Saturday the rain turned into scattered light drizzle, albeit with a cool wind and dark scuttling clouds keeping the sun's warmth away.
I fully accept and expect bad weather interfering with life, and have put many thousands of miles on my bikes under extreme weather conditions, but this week even getting out on two wheels couldn't change the underlying funk and unpleasant realities.
But - Today is already looking better and the forecast for the coming week is very promising. I think we've hit bottom and happy days are here again!

Be happy, and most of all be appreciative for what you have, and remember all of those who made it possible.
Ride Safe.