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Lessons to Relive Part 3– Lessons of Sundays

One of the greatest features of life and time is that both always move forward, forcing us to continue even when times are rough. It’s a phenomenon that allows us to conquer our greatest lows, and leave nasty experiences in the past to rot and eventually disappear. So overall, the continuum of life and time is a good thing that ushers in newer and more delightful moments, and teaches us the lessons needed to mature and evolve. But despite all these grandiose results, a dark shadow lurks on the horizon; one that can consume times of gold and turn them into ash, scattering them into the winds of time to be lost forever…

I’m speaking of the sad events that happen to all of us betwixt the folds of life and time; the moment when we allow someone we love and cherish to fade from our memory. It’s a dark event that even we don’t pick up on until something earthshattering occurs like death, or the sharp realization all adults endure when remembering their childhood. But sadly, we can’t go back in time and remedy the neglect we inflicted, or change what we did or didn’t do for that matter. So we’re left with only our memories and regrets…

But sometimes, if we’re lucky enough to sort through the dark haze of guilt and regret, we recognize parts of ourselves that were shaped by those left behind… So those we loved are never truly forgotten.

Sunday Afternoons and Seven-Up

Such a lesson of regret and understanding is poignantly portrayed in Troy Honeycutt’s account of his great uncle. When compiling Lessons From Beyond I was struck by the straightforwardness and no-holds attitude of Honeycutt’s story (as most accounts regarding guilt and loved ones are sugar-coated and whiney). He let his great uncle fade into the past, but found a way to preserve him eternally. And such honesty brings about the greatest lessons in life…

When Troy was child, his Uncle Gene was one of the most influential and important people in his life; not just because of his wealth and prestigious position in the world, but because of his work ethic and values. You see, Uncle Gene was a respected Los Angeles County Judge who had a big house with a pool, took golfing and sailing trips, hosted lavish parties, and had the most impressive set of sunglasses and hats. Troy, on the other hand, was middle-class on a good day, but Uncle Gene didn’t discriminate or acknowledge such superfluous differences, and he loved Troy even though the young boy wasn’t a blood relative, and instilled his values in life whenever the opportunity arose.

And when a youthful Troy mentioned his desire for a TV in his bedroom one fateful Sunday afternoon, Uncle Gene saw an opening to teach the wily boy a lesson in work ethic and pride. Rather than hand over the den television set, Uncle Gene set a price – painting the exterior of house. Now, up until this point in his life, Troy had never completed any chore – the dishes were always put away wet and the lawn was always shabby after being mowed. After all, a child’s own desires are far more important than pleasing the laundry list of chores handed down by parents. But Troy would never admit this level of laziness to his uncle, and set about painting the house every Sunday, and for the first time experienced the pride that comes from a job well done and the satisfaction of good craftsmanship.

It took Troy two years’ worth of Sundays to finish the painting, and knowing that he did a fine job was the ultimate payoff. And then Sundays returned to normal with seven-up, football and popcorn, until Uncle Gene was diagnosed with cancer. Though his uncle fought admirably, the cancer eventually gained the upper hand, and Troy became scared, skipping visits in order to skip the pain on his Uncle’s face. And soon girls, surfing and skateboarding won the upper-hand and Sunday visits stopped altogether…

Uncle Gene passed away when Troy was 17 years old. To this day Troy doesn’t know what day he died as he wasn’t there… Hopefully it wasn’t a Sunday.

Although Troy wishes he could yell at the teenage boy he was and explain how nothing is more important than family, he knows his teenage self wouldn’t listen anyway. Life happens and mistakes can’t be undone, but truth can be found in every dark corner…

Today, Troy builds custom motorcycles and is known for his attention to detail and work ethic. The lessons learned from painting the once formidable house guides him forward, and no challenge is impossible because Uncle Gene believed in him once and he accomplished a feat that seemed unattainable. And so, in a way Troy carries his Uncle with him, for Uncle Gene gave him the confidence to complete any task.

The fact still remains that Troy can’t change the past, but he’s learned to carry the best parts with him – Sunday afternoons with Uncle Gene…

And like Troy, we might stumble and forget those we love in the dust we unsettle, but once the haze clears the parts of true gold remain and are carried forward into the future with the realization that though the past is unchanging, it shapes who we are and thus, can never be forgotten.

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