Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Long Road to Healing through Willie, Hunting and Family

When I started this blog I had every intention to write about our dogs and how they interact with our upland life.  Along the way some of topics veered off course from time to time.  Whether it was a vacation to Spain, some fly fishing exploits or tales about a big game adventures, all of these stories are from me, my heart, my soul.  But sometimes life can interrupt our greatest of outdoor intentions.

On October 4th, I was awoken in an early morning hour with a phone call saying that my newborn nephew Max passed away.  Shock, grief, anger, disbelief, confusion and overwhelming sadness are some of the emotions that our family felt as we began to deal with this great loss.  We later learned that our beautiful little Max passed away from SIDS.  While we may never learn why, we learned how and no matter what, the pain that comes with this loss is devastating.

It's only been weeks since this happened but the healing process has started and we all know it will be a long journey with many peaks and valleys.  How we deal with loss can vary from person to person and from family to family.  How my family is dealing with this is through some time-tested and true measures: the soothing sound of Willie Nelson, the solace and solitude of hunting and the reliance in family.

First, the guitar picking sounds of Willie Nelson graced us as we began to look deep into our souls. Willie has always been a source of family pride and his distinct sound has guided us through the lows and highs of life.  Pretty Paper can be heard on a yearly basis as we decorate the Christmas tree. Whiskey River has started plenty of nights out on the town.  Willie's version of Sunday Morning Coming Down was played by my Dad in his red truck many times as we headed down Genesee Rd on our way to our cabin.  I look back at a few of those trips and saw my Dad's need for soul searching and that song always spelled a cure for him.  Always on My Mind brings us back to those that we left for all the wrong or right reasons.  Me and Bobby MeGee by Willie might be our all time favorite cover song as it had been played so much on a cassette tape from the late 1980's that it wore out.  Seven Spanish Angels by Willie and Ray Charles strikes a cord as my sisters, cousins, aunts and grandmother all consider themselves angels as their Spanish pride erupts.  Pancho and Lefty by the Highwaymen always brings a smile to our faces as our feet tap to the familiar harmony. Willie's rendition of  City of New Orleans was the first song I heard as I began my move from NY to CO.  I will always remember the lyrics "good morning America, how are you" as the most inspirational words to someone seeking a new beginning.

The days following October 4th, Angels Flying too Close to the Ground was the hardest but most appropriate song I could bring myself to listen to.  That song said it all, as our heartache hurt like no other pain.  It still hurts and will always hurt.   But how we carry ourselves as time moves on will be easier when we hear the voice of the red headed stranger echo through our soul.

I've previously written on how hunting has impacted our family but now more that ever hunting is finding its rightful place.  Like a ship that has guided off course,  a hunt can be a useful tool to "right the ship."  It's hard to explain, but for those who hunt for the right reasons, they understand.  The great Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gassett once said "one does not hunt in order to kill, on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted."  While this might be too deep for some, if you look at the simplicity of hunting this quote is clearer than the day is bright. Hunting is more than that the kill, it's more than the thrill. It's the primal need to have the focus and determination to complete the task at hand.

Whether it be chasing elk in the Rocky Mountains, following springer spaniels in the grass fields of eastern Colorado, busting brush in search of ruffed grouse, sitting in a duck blind on the Niagara River or driving deer through the swamps and pine groves of West Almond, NY, I can tell you that there will be some healing.  Just the time alone with your thoughts as you immerse into nature in the pursuit of game can clear your conscience.  And just as the cold clear air as it fills your lungs when you climb that next ridge to see what lies beyond can sometimes give you the reflection and insight of the hunt as well in life.    While we might not get out as much as we wanted or we might even have to cancel a previously planned trip or two, so is life.  Hunting will always be there for us all as it has been in the past. It's just one way to heal but for us it's an important step though this long road.

We have a large family.  At times our family has been close and at times it has been distant but such is family.  When it comes down to the finish, it's family that will be there for you.  No one can argue with the strength of family.  Family will be always be there and when they can't, they will find a way to extend their support.  Family will be there to pick you up when you have fallen, family will be there to sing your praises when you succeed and family will be there when the family has been broken.  The strength of family will come though as it has in the past and it we will find fortitude from each other.

Healing with family may come in the smallest gestures or events.  Whether it be a drive through the country on a beautiful fall day or sharing a simple meal.  It's the smallest of life's events that can get you through the toughest of times.

Many times it's the youth of a family that keeps the family together and whole.  Coming from a large family, the young have grown and have been replaced by the next generation but we always rely on the evolution of our family.  We are all connected by DNA but we all share the connection of strength and perseverance.  We are family and we are hurting but we will always remember the beautiful soul of our loving little Max.  He left us too early but his memory will help us heal as we rely on the sounds of Willie, the solace of a hunt, and the strength of family.

til next time....


UncleLarry said...

Man that's rough, sorry to hear about your loss. Sounds like your clan has a good support system, that's a special thing to have.

LRR said...

Matt, sorry for your loss. I hope that the fast staccato sound of beating wings carries some of your grief away next time you're afield.

Uplandish said...

Sorry for your loss, I can't imagine what you are going through and have gone through.

AmericanGrouch said...

Since I read this I've tried to contemplate how I'd feel, my real weaknesses being kids and bird dogs.

I'm sorry for your loss though I imagine words are small comfort.