Life and death, and “Skol, Vikings!”

Last week will go down as a landmark on my life’s timeline. For anyone who saw my recent post about having a gun pointed at me, you’ll know what I’m talking about. And for those that missed it, you can click this link to be caught up, or… to make a long story short, a fellow motorist driving aggressively pulled up next to me as we were moving down a Nashville road and used his gun to make his feelings known more clearly.

For a few days after that brazen encounter, I had a headache which is very out of the ordinary for me. My head hurt because the brazen encounter took time to truly sink in. This happened. I could’ve been hurt.

What was I thinking?

More questions than I have answers for continue scrolling through my mind; did he try to pull the trigger and it malfunctioned? What was he thinking in that moment? Was it a 9mm or a .22? Why was he so aggressive? I’ll never know how drastically my life would have changed if the gun had gone off and I was struck by the bullet, or something less painful like the bullet just hitting my car. As close as he was, we were maybe 15 feet from each other, the chances of him hitting his target were pretty high. What if I died that day? What if I was shot, but didn’t die? Who would I rely on for help? Who would care for my dogs?

The bottom line truth is this: even though he didn’t pull the trigger, my life has changed forever. I guess it would be presumptuous to say exactly how because only time will tell, and right now I don’t know all the ways my life will be different from this one random afternoon. I do know the way I drive will be different. God only knows what the future would’ve looked like had things turned out worse, so I’m taking this as a warning to think before I act, and a gigantic blessing that I have another chance to correct my course, if that makes sense. A do-over. A reset. A fail but with no major penalties.

So that was the first half of the week. Then I found out an acquantance of mine passed away very unexpectedly. He’s a friend and fellow filmmaker with a couple of my friends, and someone I worked with on a huge project from 2015 to 2017. The news hit my two friends hard. They were close to him, and though I didn’t know him as well as they did, my heart became heavy the instant I found out. I’m sad for his family, I’m sad for my friends. It doesn’t make sense when such a great person takes an early exit, and we who are left behind are the ones who lose because of it. It’s hard to come up with something positive in circumstances like this, because the best scenario is one where he isn’t gone, but something cool happened on Sunday that I’m believing is a silver lining, a little gift from above that is sweet in it’s own little way. This guy was the biggest Minnesota Vikings fan this side of Heaven, and yesterday the Vikings pulled off a win in the final seconds of their playoff game, and it was pretty unbelievable. I won’t give a play by play recap, but they won on a last second, 61-yard touchdown pass as the seconds ticked down to end the game. I heard on the radio that right before the play started, the Vikings had roughly a 6% chance of winning the game. It was only that high because they were down by 2 so a field goal would’ve won it. But with 10 seconds to go and no time outs, 60 yards away from the end zone, TVs were being shut off across the country. The game was over. But uh uh uh, not so fast! Hike, drop back, launch, a catch and a sprint to the end zone for the win! It was a highly improbable ending, but so, so sweet. The biggest Vikings fan on that side of Heaven was jumping up and down, I’m certain.

Now another week has already started and I’m very curious about how it’ll unfold. I wouldn’t mind a week where nothing happens, a week that is so forgettable that I already forgot it and it hasn’t even happened yet. But if it turns into a week where God teaches me something, not to mention where He might have in fact intervened to save my life and my way of life, I would count that as a win, too.

And another Minnesota win would be pretty nice, too. Skol, Vikings!

-Out of the Wilderness

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The closer I get to death, the more I come alive

I’ll start this off by saying I’ve been very lucky in that it was late in my teens, I may have even been 20 years old, before I truly felt the affect of someone close to me passing away. There are plenty of folks out there who have had the unfortunately experience of learning about death when they are very young. I definitely count it as a blessing from above, and to those of you had to learn about death as a youngster, it could be that God knew you were strong enough to handle it. I don’t think I was, so I applaud you in whatever effort you’ve made to cope, to overcome, and to live on with their memory.

One of my first experiences was when my mom’s aunt passed away. We called her Sister. Sometime around then Belle, our family dog went. As time marched on, both sides of my grandparents passed away and I still think about all of them pretty much every day, especially today on Me-Mom’s birthday. So proud to have her last name as my middle name, an easy way to be reminded of her and the great memories I have of one of my favorite four grandparents 🙂


Then there were the unexpected ones, right? Friends from high school. Friends from college. Folks that weren’t supposed to go so soon. For me, it was a guy I knew from FSU. My brother mentioned to me one day that this guy had died. I wasn’t close to him or anything, but he was part of the outer circle of friends for my brother and I. In fact, he’s in this video of us all biking in Tallahassee.


Friends are diagnosed with cancer. One was almost in an airplane crash. It was so much of a sure thing, the airline pilot came on the intercom and said to prepare for a crash. Crazy, right? Thankfully, they didn’t crash. Another college friend, who was younger than me, died of cancer. Then a few years ago someone I knew from church died tragically.

Then there are all the celebrities. I was visiting family in Tallahassee when I got a text from a friend: “Steve McNair found dead.” He was an NFL quarterback for the Tennessee Titans. Of course, there’s Michael Jackson, Prince, and so many more.

Now, as I’m getting older, and still growing up 🙂 it seems that with every story I hear of a loved one passing, or just someone in the news, I think to myself, “Gosh, life is short! I thought we were all gonna live forever. What am I doing today? What is important? What am I waiting for?”

I ask those rhetorically for the most part, but often find myself reflecting on the years I’ve spent on this earth, and becoming more and more aware that time is ticking away. For me. For you. For everyone. We only have 100 years or less, so make the most of it, is what I say! Save money but don’t sacrifice relationships to build a bank account. Spend more. Have fun. Go dancing. Take that overseas trip if you want to. Ask the girl out. Ask the guy out. Cuddle with your dogs. Laugh. Get a tattoo. Do encourage people around you, but don’t buy that motorcycle. 😉

A few years ago there was a guy who was walking across the country, a young guy, maybe in his 20s. He was asked on the news why and I don’t remember his exact answer, but he said something like, “Why do we waste so many years preparing for the last few?” Hello!!!! He was referring to saving for retirement, waiting till you retire to travel, all that stuff. He’s a smart guy. I thought that was fantastic.

So as I hear stories about people I know and/or loved that have passed away, I know it’s OK to be sad about it. When beloved celebrities succumb to that final curtain call, we should celebrate their lives and how they positively changed the world. Do all of that for the ones you love, too.

Then let’s go live.

Finally, a happy birthday to Me-Mom

-Out of the Wilderness

When death knocks at a neighbor’s door

It’s been over 10 years since I left Tallahassee, Florida to pursue a burning in my heart that brought me to Tennessee. My delight in video production started way back when I was a little kid but it really grabbed ahold of me in college. Soon after graduating, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a local church youth group and a lot of what I did with them was make videos. Each week I got to know the kids better and realized they were a pretty special group.

Well, in this group was a young girl, I think she was in middle school at the time. She had short, curly, blonde hair. I remember how much she smiled and was friends with a lot of other kids there. She had a spark and you could just see it, that she would be a spark in a lot of people’s lives. I didn’t know how, and I guess no one did at the time. At that age, and even the age of me and my friends who were also volunteering there, it’s hard to know exactly what mark we’ll leave on the world. We were all so young.

A few days ago this girl, now an adult, was killed. The moment I found out moved in slow motion. It’s not like I knew her anymore, but still, it was a total shock. No one ever wants to hear of someone dying way too young. She was 24, the reports say. Her death continues to weigh heavy on me. I can still barely believe it, and don’t want to.

The sad news has reminded me how precious life is. I sit in the back yard, letting the heaviness pin me to my camping chair. I think about all the little concerns I have that, if I knew I was about to die, those concerns would not even be the very last things I’d worry about. They’d be so far off the list. One of my dogs lays about 10 feet in front of me, next to her frisbee. My other dog’s inside, under the sheets napping. My family in Florida is probably at the soccer field, baseball field, or eating lunch, or a few of them jumping on the trampoline, or swimming in a pool. I blink my eyes as my mind goes deeper and deeper into thought about what really matters. My faith. My family. My friends. My neighbors.

Then more thoughts about what I’m doing that’s a waste of time. What I’m doing that I need to keep doing. What’s important? When it’s my time to go, what I’ll be most proud of. Least proud of. What I’ll regret. Will I have been a spark in the lives of those around me; my friends, my family, anyone I work with?

I’ve tried to express the current state of mind I’m in, but maybe this quote I’ve heard before is more appropriate, “When you don’t know what to say, sing.” This song by Greg Holden is what I’m singing along to…

A few days have passed since her death. Clicking over to her Facebook page I’m reading comments on her wall, all confirming the spark she was to so many people. Because of Shannan, I’m not taking today for granted. I’m soaking in the sun and sights of kayaking downtown Nashville, and thinking of Shannan.

Hope you’re still a bright shining spark in Heaven.

-BW

Suicide in the wake of Robin Williams’ death

The recent death of Robin Williams has not seemed to spark as much debate as it should about suicide. But before I get into my thoughts on it, I want to say that losing anyone that is loved and provided happiness to people is a tragedy and loss that tops all other losses. Whether the death is expected or a surprise, it’s the worse part of being human and knowing we all have an expiration date. Even with the young kid in Ferguson, Missouri, you can say what you want about his behavior, what he was or wasn’t doing before being killed, but he was someone’s son. Someone’s friend. So for those reasons, it’s not wrong to feel sad about his death. Whether it was justified or not, I suppose it’ll be up to a court to decide if the police officer was acting within his rights as a defender and protector of the public. I have my opinions but getting back to the Robin Williams thing, I’m torn in half about it. It’s extremely sad that he, or anyone, felt that their only option, their best option, was to die. I can’t wrap my head around that sort of decision. Of course, there are scenarios where it could make more sense. Being held captive, being tortured or treated inhumanely, or giving your life so someone else can live. But I’d venture to say Robin wasn’t in a scenario like that. 

What I’d like to see more in the media is, not so much a condemning, but a clear message that suicide is extremely selfish. It won’t make you more loved. People will miss you, yes, but think about what you’re doing to them. By escaping your own demons, you’re heaping a great amount of pain on to the few people you love. I can’t think of anything more selfish. 

The news coverage of Robin’s death concerned me more than I expected, but my worry had nothing to do with Robin. It was in the wake of his death that so much love was displayed for him. Now let’s say someone struggling with feelings of being unloved and unwanted watches how the masses come out to praise Robin for the good he’s done. Celebrities, regular people, all come out of the woodwork to say how much they loved him. So what’s this person who’s feeling unloved going to think about taking their own life? “Wow, if I die, people will love me.” I sincerely hope that line of thinking won’t happen but it makes sense to me. 

What I’d like to say to that person is this: suicide is the most cowardly, selfish, laziest, inhumane thing you can do, not to mention painful and dangerous. It shouldn’t even be the last option on your list. Don’t be like Robin in his death. If anything, be like him in his life. Care for other people, make them laugh, and love them more than you love yourself. That’s where Robin fell short. He didn’t realize taking the easy way out made it hard for everyone else. 

-Out of the Wilderness

Alive and I Know It

What do you get when you cross feeling deflated with yellow police tape? It’s one of those moments that will be remembered for a long time. I was driving home late one evening after losing a flag football playoff game. I had mixed emotions because on the one hand, the team I play for is good. On the other hand, our season was over. Constantly reviewing what we could have done different, what I could have done better, how we could have won the game, the usually calm 30 minute drive home was suddenly interrupted by flashing lights and one lane traffic. By the amount of commotion, I knew something was different. It wasn’t a fender bender or a speeding ticket. As I inched toward the scene, I was clued in a bit more by the yellow tape. I couldn’t make out all of what was printed on it, but I clearly saw “crime scene.”

There was a large area cordoned off including 3 lanes and in one of them, illuminated by the nearby streetlight, a covered body lay motionless. No one near it at the moment. Authorities reconstructing events. Emergency staff coming up with a plan. A 33-year old passer-by realizing the value of just being alive. I caught the news the next morning and found out the guy was 25 years old. Somewhere there’s a family that will be in mourning. There’s a parent who won’t believe it. And actually, there’s a driver responsible that fled the scene. A selfish move after an event that will haunt them.

It’s moments like this that I won’t soon forget. On the one hand, I was just an outsider looking in on an event I was not involved in. But on the other hand, I have a better appreciation of a gracious attitude, a more realistic perspective on life, the mystery of death, and the insignificance of losing a flag football game.