I have always called him Little Terry. It is a term of endearment. Terry came to be a part of my life over 21 years ago. I was young, he was younger. I think we came to be friends quickly…He was dynamic, full of world-changing ideas. He was filled with a soul that defied his few years among us, yet youthful and brimming with wide eyed wonder all at once. He was an honorary big guy in a not-so-large body.
Terry was a fisherman. He loved the search…the ritual of the chess game between him, the waters, the winds, the weather, the light, the currents, and of course, the fish.
Not long after our meeting, Terry found himself having to prove himself a worthy adversary, not unlike the fish he tried so hard to lure, hook, and draw from the depths beyond the bank or the bow. I witnessed him facing adversity of health, of career, of human frailty, of potentially spirit-sapping misfortune…Terry used these rough patches as incentive to fight against the metaphoric hook and line that seemed to be attempting to reel and steal him away from a good life, a productive life, a normal life… and at times, away from life itself.
But Terry, being a fisherman himself, was well aware of the tactics of the adversary that threatened his own life journey. At times, it seems he had been caught unaware and was nearly hooked and dragged from this world. But as a fighter of the good fight, he always managed to break free, to cheat his moment of fate time and again. Terry fished, and learned from it and grew wiser and wilier through it all.
I felt Terry looked up to me. I used to think I mentored him, set an example, encouraged and incited hope in him. He admired my stature, longed to be my height…to tote the loads I could muster at our place of work. I used to think he wanted to be more like me.
But in truth, Terry taught ME about toughness, about strength, about perseverance, and about overcoming long odds. He taught me about a lot of things after I got to know him. He rarely had two breaks in a row, yet even in the midst of rough times, he rarely missed a beat when it came to friendship. I learned resilience and was inspired profoundly by his will. I soon became an admirer of his, and ours became a friendship of mutual respect and admiration.
I have heard it said that if you feed a man a meal, you feed him for a day. But if you teach him to fish, you can help him to feed himself for a lifetime. Terry was my friend, and he was a teacher in his own right. Terry’s life taught me that life is like fishing…that it is at times heartbreaking, tough, and often leaves a soul hungry and empty-handed. But he also taught me that there is always another day, another spot that holds promise…that there is reason why it is called “fishing” and not “catching.”
It took me all these years to understand he had, in fact, been mentoring me all along. He showed me that a fish could care less if its opponent was taller, stronger, or any other number of self-appreciating traits. He taught me that one needs patience, desire, fair breezes, and a willingness to find that simple joy is in the fishing itself, even when there is little or no catching going on.
To be sure, there have been many occasions when Terry has been caught himself, and perhaps battered, but never outfoxed and landed. He was as much a wily old fish as he was crafty old fisherman.
Terry did finally get beat at his own game, but he did so while planning his next day of fishing. John Lennon said that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I find myself needing to amend that thought with another…while you’re busy making your plans, the Good Lord may be making his own plans for you. In which case, should God’s plans come to fruition, the conclusion of life may be what happens. Evidently, the Lord needed a fishing buddy, so he called on Terry to cast a line out with him.
There was much more to Terry than fishing, but then there is also much to be learned from the simple act of casting a line over water and sending a seeking hook into the depths. Every day we cast out our intentions and aspirations over the water, and every day the life beyond this one is casting out its own, in search of all of us…luckily, we usually elude the bait and tackle for the better part of ten decades…although some simply can’t evade the inevitable but for a short while.
To sit and remember the good old days, one has to have once lived them. And we should be thankful always…even for what was in the past, or has simply been taken away in an untimely fashion. To have been blessed with a gift even if only briefly, is still a blessing…even when it is viewed in retrospect.
I think that Terry might have felt the following regarding his life:
I have fished the very river that has heard my confessions, absorbed my tears, nourished my body, and quenched my thirst for water and for life. The river has become a part of me, and one day soon I hope to become a part of the river itself. I will take parts of you with me to the river I love so. I will see all of you again somewhere down the road. In the meanwhile, I will fondly peer out along the banks of that river and hope to feel you there. I hope you feel my spirit too…
With the last of my breath having left me, the sum of my treasure will be entombed in my stilled heart, and assembled there at my resting place. I hope the assembly is large, and glad to have known me. I hope the bounty of their personal treasure is swelled with my contribution, and that they too see the value is in the life we live and not piled about your properties.
If there is a twinge of an empty feeling that finds you when a cool breeze sends a chill, or when a line in a movie sends you to a desolate place inside, it is just Terry paying you a momentary visit.
Terry has joined with those already gone on ahead of him. He will see the rest of you at the grandest reunion of all. You’ll find him fishing…wearing a baseball cap and vest…nursing a can of something cold, with a pinch of something behind his lip…and a bucket of pan-sized small mouth to fry up for you later on. His hands will be filled with rod and reel, his face will wear a smile…and his heart will be at peace there by the shore of that river. Be happy for him…
As for me, I’m going down to the bank of that river, I’m gonna cast my line out over the swells, and hope for lot of fishing, and regardless of whether I get a bite or not…I will be glad and thankful to simply be convening with the spirit of Terry while he sits next to me there, healthy again, and whole once more…casting out his own line…not just to pass the time, but to make the passing of time a gift, and a lesson on how life ought to be lived…patient, thoughtfully, and with eager anticipation of the nibble or strike at the hook.
Terry is off fishing, he’ll be fine.
Thank you Terry for teaching me to fish and, in turn, how to live life.
Vía con dios my friend.