Patrick, Michael, & John walk into a bar…

I am saddened this week that Patrick Swayze has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Growing up I admired this man.  I loved watching his films.  The first time I saw him was in the film “Uncommon Valor” during my Vietnam War obsession.  Then there was “The Outsiders”, “Dirty Dancing”, “Ghost”, “Roadhouse”, “Point Break”, “Red Dawn” & the unforgettable moment he & Chris Farley auditioned to be Chippendales dancers on SNL.  Patrick Swayze shaped my worldview in profound ways.  I determined what “being a man” was upon the roles Patrick Swayze played.

I was also informed and shaped by the films of John Hughes.  Who did not have a crush on “Sam” Baker?  Who did not dream of being John Bender?  Who did not admire “Duckie” Dale and loath Steff McKee?  What teen was worth their salt that did not yearn for the freedom of Ferris Bueller or the creative genius of Gary & Wyatt?  I mourn the loss of John Hughes in ways I struggle to understand.

Michael Jackson’s death also weighs heavy on my heart.  MJ needs no introduction.  I owned “Off the Wall”, “Thriller”, & “Bad.”  I weathered the storms of questionable actions perpetrated by MJ.  I wondered what pain lie at the heart of this man.  I loved his music.  I am a bigger fan of “little Michael” & the “Jackson 5” than I am of MJ’s latest music.  I rock all of the MJ hits nonetheless.

It is mighty powerful for me to lose these three iconic parts of my youth so near to each other.  It is a reminder of the mortality that courses through my veins.  It is that 3:00 a.m. wake up call informing me that I will to come to pass.  I witness the death of my childhood in these there men.  I can no longer witness the collective glory we shared.  I am relegated to reminiscing on the good old days.

I imagine we all go through cycles similar to this.  When our heroes die we are left with fading memories of the people, places, and events that make up the life that seems to motor on by as if it were a new BMW on the autobahn.  I mourn that loss.

It began with the guys getting drafted into professional sports.  They were no longer older than me.  I had no hope of playing professional sports.  These guys increasingly grew younger and I grew older.  The flexibility I enjoyed in my “playing” days waned and was replaced with hard fought wisdom born of failed relationships and monumental mistakes that one pays for not in money but in worry.

My physical self declined rapidly. Until that day I looked into the mirror to find an overweight, balding, no-longer 18 almost middle aged young man.  The emphasis upon the young man bit.  I stared into fading photographs to see a child with taught arms and waist smiling without a real understanding of the potential he held in those powerful arms.  Reminiscing today in the death of Patrick I wipe a little tear from my eyes…

The greatest thing I have received as deposit of my youth is the hunger, desire, & compulsion for faith.  I could not have witnessed God in the ways I do now as that boy being fashioned by cries of “Wolverines!”  I understand the soft wisdom my father passed on to me in a manner I determined to be intrusive and annoying way back then.

I write this as a reflection of what it must be like for Jesus the Christ to bear witness to the death of so many beautiful stories and connections.  Each one of us holds a Patrick, a John, or a Michael in our hearts.  We watch those folks fade as we too fade in to memories.  That 3:00 a.m. panic or worry does nothing productive in your life.  We wrestle with God and don’t let go until we are blessed.  We hold on to the youth we have because we fear that when they are gone we are not too far behind.  For me I find peace in the idea that Jesus is right there with us morning all loss that strips away those precious memories.  I still wish I could return for just a day to those rambunctious days filled with limber horseplay as we pretended to be a solider somewhere doing something heroic with my siblings.  I had so many dreams and hopes.  They were replaced with reality and by the grace of God filtered through hope because “Nobody puts Babe in a corner!”

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