There was a time in life when I used to wince when I heard another friend was getting married. Usually what that meant was attending another wedding and having the expense of renting a tux if I was lucky enough to be part of the wedding party. That was then…now that I’m a few decades older it seems that another type of church ceremony occurs far too often in my life. Tomorrow morning I will serve as a pall-bearer at my cousin’s funeral who died just a few days ago after battling many health issues for the past several years.
Normally I wouldn’t blog about a friend who has died…but cousin Jim was much more to me than a close family friend. It was Jim who was responsible, along with his brother Gary, in me receiving my first shotgun. Both of these cousins made sure that when my dad died when I was only 10 years old I was given plenty of opportunities to grow into the sportsman I so wanted to someday become.
On the weekends they both would make it a point that we would shoot. Sometimes it was shotguns at clay pigeons. Other times it was .22 pistols at pop cans. Nearly every week for several years this was the routine…and I absolutely thrived on it.
But one thing I hated was to always be using their guns. Heck, eventually I became a teenager and I wanted my own gun, especially a shotgun. I remember quite fondly one day telling these two cousins how I would give anything for a nice shotgun similar to theirs. I gave it one of those sad, child-envy stories knowing full well it would tug at their heartstrings and that they would lobby my mother hard to allow her to let me own a shotgun. It worked…that year for Christmas I received my first shotgun…a Remington 1100…and I owe it mostly to cousin Jim who has now passed away.
This all happened nearly 30 years ago and lots of things have changed during that time. We all get older and sometimes we need to say goodbye to those who have been so important to our lives. Such is now the case with my cousin, Jim, who devoted a good portion of his life to make sure that a young kid who had lost his father had plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
Sadly, both these cousins who were once so instrumental in my life have now passed on. My hunch is they are probably up in heaven right now on some trap range honing their shooting skills. I’d be disappointed in both of them if they weren’t doing just that. And that’s alright…because someday I hope to have the opportunity to once again join them and continue our many good times just shooting and plinking away the afternoon. I just hope they’ll forgive me…because my plans aren’t to be joining them anytime soon.
In each of our lives there are important people who mentor us so that we can become the hunters and anglers we strive to be. Indeed, it is always sad to lose a mentor who has so unselfishly given of themselves to help a young kid out who needed a little guidance. Now I feel the torch has been passed on to me and it is my turn to be the mentor to others, in particular my young 10–year old stepson. Perhaps if I’m doing my job correctly as a mentor, maybe the next time he asks me if we can shoot the pellet gun together…I will look for reasons to make it happen rather than excuses why I am most often too busy for that activity. That’s how both Jim and Gary would have been in mentoring me.
Make sure the mentors in your life hear your thanks before it’s too late. When you mentor someone you make an investment in both your time and in the other person. Occasionally, it’s just kind of nice to hear some gratitude that the effort being extended has been worthwhile. Do this before you have to say goodbye to that person and it’s too late.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.