A half burnt cigarette and a heart filled with tears
By David Leo Schultz
I spend to much time thinking about movies. I watch too many movies. I write movies. I act in movies. I direct movies. I even dream in movies…
As I smoke my cigarette and stare at the christmas lights that wrap around my back porch I can’t help but ponder about how symbolic this smoke is for my short life.
I suddenly think of a great opening scene for a movie. An old man and a young man sharing a cigarette break. The young man sucks down his smoke like he’s chugging a soft drink. The old man puts his hand on the young man’s shoulder and says…”Slow down. It will be over soon enough.”
I can’t help but think about how short this life was for my loved ones that have already passed away and their bodies are now dust much like the ash from my smoke that has disappeared into the wind.
I think about Kyle who died a year ago this month of December. When I think of my friend. I don’t hear his voice. I can remember if I try but I let the memories of my departed loved ones do whatever they want – not what I wish they would do. With Kyle I just see him smiling. Smiling at me. A smile that is both amused by me as much as it encourages me. He was 35 when he died.
I think about my Step-Mom Paula who died quietly of cancer in a hospital room in Florida. I miss our little talks. I can still hear her excitement when I would call her and ask her for a recipe or help with researching the best deal for this or that. I’m glad she got to see my movie “Ragamuffin” before she died. But I’ll forever regret missing her call the week before she died. I tried to call her back. But I should have tried harder. Maybe I would have gotten to hear her voice one last time. But I didn’t.
I think about my Grandpa & Grandma Schultz. They were always filled with answers to my questions about our Jewish Heritage …and even more filled with compassion for their Christian grandson. My Grandma was a beautiful red headed painter, and my Grandpa was a towering man of steel who was also a welder. I miss them both. When I think of my Grandma Beverly I can see her dancing …and when I think of My Grandpa I can see him serving…why? Because he was the definition of humility. Everyone else goes first. Then him. But it was him who ended up going first in the next life. But before he left, he left one last note to the love of his life that said, “I love you my darling.” Chuckie.
I think about my second cousin – Jim English. I carry a shred of an old picture of Jimmy in a small picture frame. That’s all that is left of his life cut short – by his own hand. Those who know me know I can never stop talking about Jimmy. I can’t remember his voice any longer. The second I think I can is the second I know I’m just wishing I could. I don’t stop talking about you because I don’t ever want to forget – I don’t want to forget my very first hero.
My cigarette is almost gone now as I think about my Grandma Roxy. My Mom’s Mom. But she was my Mom too. When I tell people that my Grandma died – I can tell they don’t get it. They react respectfully of course. But they react as one would when they hear a grandparent passes. It’s compassionate and empathetic but not as much as when a parent passes. I’m not being sappy to say that she was like my Mom. It’s just really true. Beyond biology what makes a mother/child relationship…is the bond. When it comes to biology she was my Grandmother. But when it comes to bond she was my mother.
Maybe I’m too morbid or too wise. Either way I know I’m not humble. And not because or just because I think I have some wisdom. I am aware of my lack of humility because of how “self” focused I can be…but it’s these quiet moments when I realize how truly foolish it is to be focused on me. With the sound of a ticking clock I know that death isn’t too far out of reach for any of us. Although my favorite joke with my wife about my smoking is…when she says, “You know these are going to kill you…” I smile and say…”Death is a myth. Don’t believe everything you hear babe.”
But she’s right. And if she’s not, then life itself will kill me. No one get’s out alive. Kyle didn’t. My Grandparents didn’t. My Step Mom didn’t. Jimmy didn’t.
My friend told me that at the end of my life as I reflect on my wealth and achievements …it won’t be my resume I think about…it will be my family and friends. He’s right.
So, as I finish my smoke. I think about my wife. I think about my kids. I think about my friends. I think I’m going to retire from worry. From rushing and running through life. I think I’m going to quit career chasing and achievement building. I think I’m throwing in the towel on pursuing. I’m done with surviving…but I think I’m going all in on living. I’m want to be fully alive in what I create and being present. I have no more interest in keeping tabs on mile markers or notches in any belt…I just want to work, create, and most of all be fully alive in every moment with Amy – my wife. Lucy – my lovely daughter. And laughing with and listening to my family & friends.
But most of all I want to enjoy my loved ones and the precious gift that this life is…after all. It will all be over soon.
Just like this cigarette.