Saturday, August 6, 2022

Check Your Guidance System

I was asked by my brother Tom to speak at my nephew's funeral.
I was the only choice. Most of my family doesn't do church.
They don't have a pastor to turn to.

It’s never easy speaking at a funeral.

I’ve only done it a couple times, and pastor friends of mine let me know that the circumstances of a suicide make it more difficult.

Tom asked me to, and I couldn’t say no. He’s my brother, and like many here he hurts.

So, I’m not a pro and I might make mistakes. Be graceful and have mercy on me.

I’m gonna start with the hard stuff and then we can lighten up.

A few years ago, I won a contest to visit Washington D.C. and met a guy I talked to on the radio frequently. I had written some ads that won the contest and Scherie and I were put up for a week.

We drove to D.C. and we followed Google Maps to get to our destination.

At one point, we were told to take an exit, even thought it seemed counter-intuitive.

We followed the directions and stuff started to look vaguely familiar.

Then we were told to take the same exit again.

Well, a bathroom break was needed.

I talked to the guy behind the counter and told him what had happened.

He laughed and said that it wasn’t the first time he had heard that story.

He then told me how to get back on track, and we made it to our hotel.

Life is like that.

We have a destination in mind. Whether it’s a good destination in the long run, none of a choose one that we think will bring us unhappiness.

We launch off and hope for the best.

Early explorers had a piece of cork, a magnetic needle and the sun.

We have GPS. And even then, we get lost, and someone has to set us straight.

A lot of us are guided by our own sense of direction. Especially us guys.

We find it hard to ask for direction if we think we know where we are going.

We have an internal sense of which path we should take.

I don’t think any of us want to set off in a direction that will bring us hurt or harm, unless it’s for a greater purpose: protecting ourselves and ours.

But it’s unrealistic that we will choose a path that will bring harm to ourselves to hurt others, particularly loved ones.

I think you can see the general direction this is going.

Often, the guidance system goes wrong and we end up making the same mistake over and over until we stop and ask for help. And if we don’t ask for help, and just rely on ourselves, well, we are the ones who got us there in the first place. The definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I’ve been surprised at the number of friends I’ve spoken to who said that they were that close to shutting it all down. I have a close friend of many years who just yesterday told me that he had almost done it. My friend was in an accident a year ago and is in daily pain. Excruciating, can’t get comfortable pain. I asked if it was recently that he had considered this, since the loss of his daughter and the accident. He said no, it was earlier than that, which utterly surprised me.

Years ago, depressed on drugs, I had considered it. I did not for the same reason my friend did not.

The effect on loved ones and the mess someone would have to clean up.

But Danny made the decision to do it. I can empathize with Danny. He’s put us in a position where he has abandoned us and left us and hurt us. But we certainly do not feel the pain today that drove him to end his life. 

I don’t know if he had stopped anyone to ask for directions.

I did, a number of years ago. My brother Tom did 30 years ago.

Perhaps if Danny had sought help, and received it, we wouldn’t be here today.

I like to see all of you, but not under these conditions.

Over 40 years ago, on this day, my brother-in-law, Tim, whom I have never met, was killed in a freak construction accident.

Tim had quit the US Naval Academy to return to work in the construction industry with his dad.

The last words spoken by his dad to him were, “Go over and work on that deck."

Immediately after that, a literal ton of bricks fell on Tim. A block wall had toppled onto him.

His father had to deal with that grief and imagined guilt.

I say that to say this: Words were said at his funeral that changed lives for years to come.

I've seen the fruit of it. Trauma brings change. Make sure it brings the right change.

People considered the path they were on.

And they chose differently. And wisely.

I'm not gonna preach at you. I'm not gonna tell you to find Jesus. You can ask me about that later if you're interested. 

But everybody needs help and guidance.

Danny took a wrong turn. I think we can agree on that.

He made a tragic decision, one influenced by the drug of his choice. Alcohol.

Alcoholism runs in our family, Grandpa was a bootlegger. So was Uncle Stan. Famously so.

I was driving home one night when I had to choose which of three white line to follow.

I survived it and change. I told my dad that story shortly before he died and he said that he had the same experience coming home from tjhe Legion Hall one night and quit.

Tom quit, 30 years of AA.

If it doesn't have a grip on you, fine. Statistically, a number of you are in it's grip.

If you are, it can lead to a destructive path.

Quit. Get help. Seek outside guidance.

Learn a lesson from Danny. He'd want that.

And find a good guidance system for life.

I did. You can too.


  1. So sorry about the tragedy but I pray something good came from it. Thank you for sharing the story and the lesson. Well done.

    1. Thanks, Sparky. It actually got a good reception even though most were stone faced while I spoke and everyone busted out sobbing when I was done.

  2. So sad and a wonderful response on your part to a difficult story.

  3. Beautiful my friend. You get better every day.

  4. Same here. Good job. Well presented. Not what people 'expect' and that alone may have leant you more ears. 🙏

    1. Just contributing to the trauma that brings change :)

  5. You and your family are in my prayers.

    Beautiful words.

    It is amazing to know how many of find direction when we are so lost, so close to no hope.

    Sadly, some do not ask for help.

  6. You did a good job with an extremely difficult situation.

    In 1982 a coworker of mine committed suicide, and his death could have been prevented. I still haven't gotten over it. He was unhappy, he was in emotional pain, and none of us knew what to do to help him. We didn't know he was suicidal - but his roommates did, and did nothing to help.

    Anyway - you did real well.

    1. Thanks. I pray it affected change.
      A number of people I did not expect to appreciate it thanked me.

    2. Ed, Whether it affects change or not, you at least made the effort knowing you faced an audience from whom you risked blow-back. You know your Maker allotted you a limited time on Earth. Maybe the greatest personal sin is perceiving a need that needs voicing but remaining silent. You rose to the challenge. It's now up to those who heard, both there and here, to learn from it.

  7. Thanks for the post. This makes me so glad to be in an extended family of Christians (both on my side and my wife's). While there have been periods where some individuals strayed, they came back and they knew the Word.

    Nonetheless, I do live in the real world. Therefore, guys at work aren't as responsive to the good news as they could be. Like you, I can't force it, but I can be available. So far, I have found a few fellow believers at work, but no conversions.

    In regard to your travel tale, I have a similar story. Having tried my hand at teaching college courses, I was offered something that turned out to initially pay quite a bit more: delivering pizzas. And, as a continual user of Google Maps and Waze, I have regularly been told by an electronic voice "You have arrived" when I am 1000 feet away. I have been told "Your destination is on the right" when it is not. Therefore, I feel for you.

    1. I would never want to make deliveries dependent on Maps. wow.

    2. Almost as if I am being watched, I just got a hike in my car insurance. And, when my wife checks with the insurance companies, the only way for me to get a lower insurance cost is to quit delivering.

      I have had no wrecks or claims on my car (since three years ago when a guy rear-ended me in stopped traffic -- over a year and a half before I started delivering).

  8. Well said. I expect it was hard to say.