When the Journey is Done
You’re left with just a picture
that survived a dream. You want to hide away
from the world
and it’s crazy schemes. If you could stand
within this moment, Catch hold of what’s
left by the tide, You might sweep away the silt And see what my love means.
For three years in a row I had enjoyed this event called the “Sister Reunion”. The first was the first time I had seen my half-Korean-half-sister Kim, since I was thirteen years of age. During that first at the Welk’s Resort in Escondido, we enjoyed a late-night conversation swapping stories of our disparate experiences growing up with our father that cemented that although she has a different mother, she is fully my sister. That was also the first time I met Kim’s future wife Jasmine.
The person who helped facilitate the event was my second sister Melanie who is very judicious at using her timeshare and Marriot’s rewards points. In fact, the next year’s reunion included Kim, Jasmine, Jasmine’s sister Erica, Jasmine’s mother MIldred, Melanie and my daughter Asha at the Marriot Desert Spring’s resort. The year after was at a resort in Scottsdale, AZ. Although one consistent theme running through these events was make fun of “Big Brother,” me, I had come to look forward to the feeling of being a family that we shared for the first time in our lives. Mixed in with all the jokes was a lot of “I love you”, stated both directly and implicitly. I was looking forward to this year’s reunion and introducing the sisters to my woman Catherine, but that was not to be.
With the year 2020 came the pandemic and many dreams were not to be. I realize that my disappointment has been lite in comparison to some who have lost dreams like owning a business, their last semester on their college campus, graduation ceremonies, jobs, family reunions, wedding ceremonies and even family members. Maybe nationally we have lost part of a dream as our prosperous economy shrank by thirty-three percent. Perhaps even more significant has been the damage to our American ethos. As a nation we were founded upon a statement that “We hold these truths to be self-evident..”, but these days it does not seem that we hold any truths to be self-evident. We have become a nation divided in partisan camps with extremely disparate views on what is true. Whether we are discussing the economy, political events, racism or even the pandemic each camp is quick to declare any information contrary to their particular political narrative fake news. The camps have even maintained extremely contrary narratives about the pandemic and its severity.
This year, 2020, has been so much like a tsunami that has come in with turbulent force sweeping through our nation and turning on end everything we were clinging to for stability. There have been no constants. Even though people keep saying, “We are in this together” the tsunami of 2020 has left people scrambling preserve self and family. To some who have had loved one’s die the pandemic is real and to others who have lived in areas less impacted or have not experienced the death or morbidity of someone close the pandemic is just hype, possibly even a political hoax. I am among the less than 2 percent in Orange County California and the less than 13 percent in the nation more likely to suffer adverse consequences from the pandemic: I must remember the first person my life matters to is me. For me the rules of 2020 are like referee’s instructions before a boxing match, “Protect yourself at all times?” However, instead of each camp going to its’ neutral corner between rounds of political unrest and pandemic and then coming out fighting, it might be expedient if we could recapture some unifying principles and once again be a, “United” States of America.
You try to remember days of
childhood cheer, But all memories wash to gray
in your present tears. If you could comprehend the murmur That has fueled the ancient songs You would laugh You would dance in freedom For a thousand years.
On a Saturday morning in September I posted a group message on Facebook to my bandmates from my high school Student Association for Performing Arts. I asked about one of our previously hospitalized members, Kevin Baldwin, who had played in the trumpet section with me in band and then later transferred to playing bass with the rhythm section of the Jazz band. I was reassured that Kevin was doing better, so I used the occasion to post a song I had recorded to the group. Then soon thereafter I got a message that Kevin had died. Coincidentally, that same day Facebook reminded me that six years prior I had posted while on tour with the Robert Allen Layman’s Gospel Chorus in Mississippi reminiscing about my high school tours with the Student Association of Performing Arts. I was comparing the two experiences and entertaining the fantasy that we would all get back together and play music sometime. However, hearing Kevin was dead was like hearing John Lennon was shot and realizing the Beatles would never get back together; a hope was irretrievably lost.
Hope dips beyond the horizon
with the setting sun. For those who live
with hope inside them the journey’s just begun, Rays of warmth never depart from what lives within their hearts, The only gift
they can take with them when the journey’s done. A gift to set before the king when the journey’s done.
You'd think that people would have had enough of crazy Zoom calls; I look around me and I see it isn't so. Given the pandemic atmosphere, the best we could do to remember Kevin was a Zoom call. During the call Carol, Kevin’s classmate and former prom date, remembered that we had also been in Young Life with Kevin. Carol recalled after Young Life meetings jumping into Kevin’s red MG convertible and doing doughnuts in the gravel parking lot outside of the church where Young Life met. Carol did offer that she was not sure what that had to do with Bible Study? Perhaps everything and nothing.
When it came my time to speak I said, “Young Life did tend to be the theology lite of Bible Studies.” Instead of learning new hymns the song I most remember singing was “Take it Easy” by the Eagles. There was something in those song Lyrics that matched the spirit in which Kevin lived, “We may lose and we may win, though we will never be here again; so open up, I'm climbin' in, so take it easy.” Kevin new how to live in the moment and enjoy life. I was making it through high school by acting out my angst and it seemed that whenever I had a crazy impulse it was Kevin who was in the background saying, “Yeah you should totally do that.” For example, Kevin was one of my biggest fans encouraging my daily dramatic readings from Memoirs Of Fanny Hill, by John Cleland on our high school SAPA tour bus. Kevin also encouraged and provided musical accompaniment on bass along with Paul Camacho on guitar when someone suggested that I dawn a Hawaiian shirt and straw hat and sing the C&H Sugar theme song as a commercial in the middle of a Christmas concert.
What did any of this have to do with the Bible? Well we did learn that Christ declared his mission to be: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). I had only kept apprised of Kevin after high school through mutual friends. However, one thing I learned listening to people talk about Kevin’s adult life was that Kevin lived a very full life. He was a very intelligent man who was wildly successful in the financial world. He acquired things he loved like a collection of guitars and some fast cars. However, it was not just about the things but opportunities to share them with people that motivated Kevin. Several people discussed this quality that Kevin had wherein he spoke to everyone as if they were the most important person on earth in that moment. I am not sure how much theology Kevin absorbed from Young Life but in my book that is a pretty Christlike trait which we saw in studying incidents like Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus shocked the world by partying with sinners and tax collectors. Likewise, one of Kevin’s closest friends was a tax collector (IRS investigatory agent) and fellow guitar player Paul Camacho.
I enjoyed listening to some of the wild stories people told about celebrating life with Kevin while he was alive. “All along there were incidents and accidents; there were hints and allegations” of pushing the edge a bit. Some stricter more doctrinally minded people might cast judgement on some of the activities, but I would simply remind them that Christ did not come into the world to judge people (John 3:17), but to save them. Christ actually gave only one new command, that we love each other (John 13:4-35). In that regard Kevin fulfilled the law because people recounted his love and devotion to his parents. They also told of his generous hospitality as he always had a place for people to stay when they were in town. If he could get tickets to a good ballgame, he was bringing friends along with him. He loved people by teaching them and mentoring them in the financial world and helping others achieve success. The prevailing sentiment I got from the participants on Kevin’s memorial zoom call was everyone who spent time with him felt loved.
I was pleased to hear that my friend had attained so much success in life. His life course was not without setbacks such as a serious motorcycle accident, brain surgery and being robbed of a valuable collection of guitars. However, he demonstrated a good attitude going through these setbacks. He always recognized the strength and ability he had to keep going. Most importantly he maintained his kindness and generosity throughout. The current American ethos seems to be that success matters more than character. Our political discourse has become vicious and cutting typified by ad-hominem attacks on anyone who doesn’t embrace our ideology. Maintaining a partisan narrative seems to mean more than integrity and each side bends the truth for convenience. A just and merciful society is desirable but even the social justice warriors betray their integrity for clicks and likes. In the course of life attaining knowledge, wealth and title gives us status, but when the journey is done our most notable accomplishment will be the impression we left on those who came in contact with us.
It’s a race not won By the swift nor the strong So when you can’t go on Don’t fight the wind
and be carried by eagles’ wings
into the air Don’t fight the wind
and I will lift you up
beyond your cares Beyond your cares.
©2020: Derek Vincent Taylor
Biblical References for song "When the Journey is Done":
- A race not won by the swift nor the strong: Ecclesiastes 9:11
- Don't fight the wind and be carried by eagles' wings. Isaiah 40:31
- "Take it Easy": The Eagles; Asylum (1972)
- "You Can Call Me All" (parodied): Paul Simon Warner Brothers (1986)
- "Silly Love Songs (parodied): Wings; Capitol (1976)