It thinks it knows it all. It thinks it knows better than you. It hurts. It takes something or someone away from you. It is not going to give it back. You just have to deal with it. You start asking why. You find out you are not going to find out why. All you have left over is the painful experience.
Why am I so stinking mad? Because all of the things that make up a life are gone. Activities. Difficult times. Tough decisions. Jubilation. Disappointment. Laughter. Expectation. Love. Hope. They are all gone.
Within a week in my world, death has reared its unforgiving head again. Death has taken people I knew, people I loved. In each case it included people that made significant impressions on me and the ones around them.
A teen was described by his friends and family as full of life. He was willing to help, he was always smiling, he loved his family, his friends, his church, his Lord. He was 17.
A young mother had given up a promising career. She took on a stay at home job so she could take care of her home bound child. She was 29. The child is now motherless.
Lastly, a friend of mine. He was 58. Before the cancer set in he was stronger than most 30 year old's. He exercised regularly. He was disciplined. He was respected. He was a man's man. He was a grand-dad. He was caring. He was a daddy. He was a husband. He went with us on our second hiking trip to the Appalachian Trail. He literally saved my life.
Walking along the trail that day with my dad, brother, nephews, and a few friends, I had my head down looking directly at the path in front of me. My thoughts were on my family, my career, my golf game, my need for some double stuffed Oreo's...suddenly something caught my eye that snapped me back to reality. In mid step I held my left foot about 18 inches from the ground. Underneath my left foot was a live rattlesnake.
It was just laying there in the middle of the path. It was not coiled up, but instead stretched out as if it was stretching to see how long he was. My foot was just above its head. My nephew, "Sparkplug" who was about 10 at the time, was walking about ten steps behind me. As I stood there with one foot up in the air, my thoughts suddenly went something like this: Move slow. No way fool, no sudden movements. Run. Scream. Dude you are screwed. Back up. Step on his head while you have the chance. You better not miss. Sparkplug is behind you. Ease back. Ease back.
I slowly leaned my weight back (I was carrying a 32 lb backpack - trust me you know exactly how much it weighs after carrying it for two days) and without disturbing the rattlesnake I was able to manage to put about 10 yards between his intermittent tongue and my foot. I heard Sparkplug walking up behind me so I put my arms out to each side. I still did not want to make any unnecessary movement or noises.
Sparkplug hit my left hand, stopped and said, "What do you see Uncle Kipp?" I said, Rattlesnake. Hold still, be quiet and do not make any unnecessary movement until I figure out what to do. "UNCLE KIPP FOUND A RATTLESNAKE!" So much for unnecessary.
As Wayne rounded the path he said, "Really? Where?" I pointed to the now coiling rattlesnake. He was not huge (I know, you thought I was going to exaggerate and say it was the size of an Anaconda...); he was about the size of a king cobra. We were in a eye level stare down.
While I was trying to determine if my walking stick was long enough to scoop up the rattlesnake and encourage him off the path, I am bumped on the left shoulder as if I was being passed by an aggressive pedestrian in Times Square. Wayne is going by Sparkplug and I with a rock the size of a football over his head. "WAYNE NO!" I called out to try and to stop him.
(I had tried to kill a snake once with golf club, I swung and missed. Snakes do not like it when you try to kill them. The best method is with a shotgun. We were without said best method.)
Wayne used both hands from above his head to forcefully hurl the rock down at the rattlesnake. The rock landed about six inches past the rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes are bad ass. (sorry for the language but they are) Rattlesnakes do not like trying to be stoned to death. Jim Morrison yes, rattlesnakes no. The rattlesnake coiled tighter and started his rattle.
Un-phased by his miss, Wayne squats down to pick up the rock. Wayne was carrying about 45 pounds in his backpack. What exactly he was thinking at the time is beyond me. But he was literally straddling the snake. As he is reaching for the rock, I screamed "WAYNE LOOK OUT!" Thanks to the Lord above, Wayne bunny hopped straight back as the snake struck at his leg.
You will not find too many pictures of striking rattlesnakes...go figure. What I have found out, is you have about 1 hour to get treated for a rattlesnake bite if you want to increase your chances at survival. We were on a trail in the middle of no where with no real map and no cell phone reception. Miracle?...yeah that's what I am thinking. (Every time us boys leave the house to go on an adventure one or more of our mothers and wives are home praying for our safety)
Wayne walked around with a little more caution to pick up the rock again. Once the rock was above his head again he hurled it at the rattlesnake. This time he hit his target. He repeated this two more times until the rattlesnake appeared to be...shall we say...unresponsive. Then in one move he took his walking stick and scooped up the rattlesnake and flung it down the side of the hill. I looked at him and said, Wayne I really hope nobody is coming up the trail right now. "Didn't really think about that Kipp; lets go." Before the rest of our group caught up to us and as if nothing had changed on our journey, Wayne told us to go ahead we needed to keep walking in order to make camp.
There are some people that just get the job done no matter the obstacle. There are some people that will give you their shirt off their back. There are some people that treat like you are their own. There are some people that will kill a rattlesnake for you. Wayne "Rattlesnake" Reid was one of those men.
He loved his wife and it showed; she adored him for it. His two daughters made him feel like he was the #1 dad in the world, and they meant it. His son-in-laws respected and loved him. He loved his five grandchildren. They could not get enough of him. His friends looked up to him because of his work ethic. He was a prime example of what a loving husband and father looked like. He had the talent to be a professional singer, but he chose to sing for an audience of One. He continued to have faith in his Lord through out his battle with cancer singing "Peace Like a River".
Mad at death, you bet I am. Mad at God, no way.
Three of his brothers spoke at his funeral and described him much the same way I have. The message they repeated over and over was how much Wayne wanted them to keep the faith in the God he loved. They described Wayne's faith and battle with cancer as being like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from Daniel chapter 3. Nebuchadnezzar asked these three boys to bow down to a false god or else face death by fire. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused. They continued to express their faith in God, telling all that their God had the power to deliver them. They believed God would deliver them. In one of the most powerful displays of faith they told Nebuchadnezzar that even if God did not deliver them they would still worship their God and not a man-made idol. Wayne had that faith. He was not delivered from his cancer but his faith did not waiver.
Wayne was a great example of man, a husband, a father, a Christian full of faith and a friend. Believe me his example will live on.