A friend died, unexpectedly, while I was in North Carolina on my Spring Break.
He was only fifty-one. He was a professional bass player from Dallas. I knew him because he played with the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater, a group I have been playing with in the beautiful summers of Logan for the past four years.
After learning about his passing, I immediately pictured his turkey from two years previous.
His turkey? you might ask.
Yes, his turkey, I'd respond.
Scott cooked a mean turkey, and by that I mean he cooked an incredibly juicy and delectable bird that, though normally only eaten in November, was so entirely om-nom-nom, Scott could totally pull off cooking and feeding it to us in July.
It was an amazingly tasty turkey. I could rant and rave about it for years. I can taste it like it was yesterday. Mmm.
In fact, I remember quite clearly that I was flooding Scott with all sorts of compliments one afternoon about it, so much so that he revealed to me the secret ingredient of his incomparable fowl:
Which is funny because I'm Mormon, meaning I don't drink alcohol, which makes me laugh almost to the point of tears, because it only confirms that if I weren't Mormon, I'd be a raging alcoholic. If beer can make turkey taste that good, I know I would be adding it to everything. Beer ice cream? Beer quesadillas? Bring. It. On.
Scott did bring me ice cream and quesadillas, of the non-beer variety (well, as far as I know), always when I seemed to most need it, at moments of time when I could not seem to find time to fix anything to eat for myself.
I'd hear a knock on my apartment door (we were all housed in the same complex) and my stomach would be growling, and there would be Scott.
"I thought you might enjoy some leftovers," he'd say, extending to me a warm plate of deliciousness.
He had a sixth sense for serving others; for instance, if I ever needed a ride.
"Hi," he'd say. "I just wanted to check to make sure you had a ride to rehearsal tonight."
"Actually ... I do need one, funny that you ask."
"Well, my car is full, but let me ask so-and-so for you ..."
And that is how he was. Always on the lookout to help me out.
Like when I was babysitting Maria's kids, which I did quite a lot of last summer. Scott would pop in and play cars with the twins or go on a walk with Carlo. They adored him. I super appreciated the extra hand.
It's funny how the passing of people brings to mind all sorts of memories. Fresh, crisp memories. Memories you sort of take for granted. Even the memories you'd rather forget.
So, as previously mentioned, I was on my trip in North Carolina when I received word of Scott's death, and I didn't want to put a damper on our travels, so I briefly mentioned it to my friend and the lady whose house we were staying in that night, but kept most of my emotions inside of me, which isn't exactly the healthiest practice, but seemed like the right thing to do.
My mind, when it first heard the news, traveled briskly through all of those previously-mentioned, quite-pleasant memories of Scott, but they veered oppositely as I remembered the end of last summer, right when I got word of my new job.
All summer long I had been filled with anxious anxiety about where I'd end up, where my life would take me, and this job offer was the pivotal answer to all of my prayers. Everyone in the orchestra extended their congratulations and excitement regarding my future in Houston.
Well, that is, everyone but Scott.
"Houston?!" he asked incredulously. "They'll eat you alive out there! That's going to be a big change from what you're used to; those public school kids are hard. And in such a big city, too! It's very different there from here."
I smiled and offered no verbal response, but it hurt that he said that to me.
Like, a lot, a lot.
So I avoided him, quite defiantly, quite coldly, for the rest of the summer, which wasn't for too much longer, but I was beyond ticked. I was upset because he thought I was incapable. I was upset because he thought I was weak. I was upset because he didn't think I could handle the "big city" or whatever. I was upset because he should have been happy for me, supportive of me, and instead, he was doubting me and my decision. Like he even knew me.
Several times in the following few months, as I tackled my job, I thought in my head: Can't wait to talk to Scott next summer. I'll show him who is rockin' out in Houston.
Seriously. It had been a great motivator to succeed, to prove him wrong.
But then I learned about his death, just this past week, and I was bothered. Not by him, but by me. I woke up the next morning with tears on my face and pillow.
I was wrong.
I was so wrong.
Scott's intentions were not to bring me down. I think, now that I am able to think about it with an open heart, Scott was genuinely concerned about me. He was compassionate enough to feel sorry for me, he realized how hard this transition would be, and not only how hard it would be for me, but how hard it would be for anyone. That's the bottom line. He wasn't personally attacking me. He cared about me, he really did; I sense that now.
Little ignorant me thought that I would be able to waltz into my school and radically change the world with my radiant ideas, but I have since learned that teaching a public school orchestra takes a lot more than waltzing, and I know that Scott knew it would take a lot more than waltzing.
So I cried when I woke up that morning, the morning after Scott died. I cried because I was beginning to understand, and because it took his death to get me to understand. I cried because I had misunderstood him, and because I was too prideful to attempt to see where he was coming from. I cried because I was too stubborn to forgive him. I cried because I wouldn't be able to see him this summer to make amends and become his friend again. I had overlooked all of his previous niceness, getting caught up in one, single, stupid instance of time.
Then, as if to rub salt in the wound, after a moment of repose and collection, I cried again, silent tears, because Scott had done so much for me, and I had done absolutely nothing for him. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
I was selfish, taking everything he was giving me, never thinking to give back in return. In the end, I only gave him my irritating standoffishness, when he certainly deserved my tolerance and forgiveness. How stupid. How stupid I was to take such offense. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
In the end, I stopped crying. I wanted to continue to wallow in my grief, rolling in self-loathing and pity, but I didn't, and I know it was only through the grace of Christ's Atonement that I was able to do so, in all humblitude of candid honesty.
I did feel regret and guilt, YES. But I realized, firmly, that regret and guilt weren't gonna get me anywhere unless I did something about it.
I needed to change me.
The selfish, unforgiving Melissa was yesterday. I could, and would, be someone new today. This is what repentance is: letting go and moving on with a new heart.
Of course I wish I could go back. I wish I had expressed more appreciation for the things he had done for me. I wish I hadn't let something so small get in the way of our friendship. Doi.
But I cannot reverse time, now matter how hard I will it. I can only change my future choices to reflect more recognition and appreciation for others, which is what I should and will do, starting with those nearest to me, then extending it to every person who crosses my path.
First-time guest poster Melissa Condie is a middle school orchestra teacher in Houston, Texas.
Image credit: Patrick Feller (used with permission).