By Todd E. Brady
Saturday, we left from our annual trip to the beach with family at 5:00 in the morning and rolled back into Jackson that same afternoon. It was the longest day of the year. After spending a week sitting on the beach and reading books during the day, eating Peel and Eat Shrimp for supper each night, and watching MLB Postseason Baseball on the couch late into the night, it was good to get back in the routine of day-to-day life in the community. Sunday morning, we’ll head to church like we never missed a beat.
As we drove up our street and approached our house, I first noticed the big tree in the front yard. When we left last week, its leaves were green. Now, those leaves were yellow—at least those that were still on the tree. When we got out to unload the van, I immediately noticed the nip in the air. A week ago, it was shorts and t-shirt weather. Now, it was shorts and sweatshirt weather. The Volunteers were on their way to beating the Aggies in Neyland Stadium. As John Ward used to say, it was football time in Tennessee. Except for all the leaves in my yard, I love the fall.
The crunch of leaves underfoot accompanied us during the 562 trips from the car to the house and back to the car again as we unloaded all our luggage and beach gear. Once we got everything inside, I noticed that we had tracked leaves inside the kitchen. I caught myself bending over and picking up leaves off the kitchen floor. That’s when I knew that my incessant leaf season had begun.
They say that misery loves company. Well, that’s true. For this and other reasons, I sure wish that Barry Joyce was around.
Back in August, I spoke at Barry’s funeral. Not only did we go to church together, but we were also neighbors for eight years. He and I would often stand in the side yard and commiserate about the leaves. I remember him talking about the leaves and saying, “It’s a never-ending job.” It seemed like he worked in the yard all the time. It seemed (and still seems) like I work in the yard all the time.
When Barry and Calista decided to down-size and subsequently move out of the neighborhood several years ago, the Bradys felt like we were losing part of the family. I told everyone at Barry’s funeral that in some ways I had already grieved his passing when he moved away several years ago. The day we told our boys that Mr. Barry and Mrs. Calista were moving was not a good day in our house.
Although exhausted from the eight-hour drive from the beach, once all the luggage was hauled in the house, I walked down to the shed in the backyard and pulled out my backpack leaf blower. The two-month battle with the leaves had begun, and I was not going to allow a little beach trip to set me back for even one minute.
Walking down to the shed, I thought about Barry. Blowing off the driveway, I thought about Barry. I remembered texting him after he moved and joking with him that I was going to bag up all my leaves and give them to him for Christmas. He texted back and said, “I’ll move again!”
Blowing leaves has just begun. Picking up leaves off the kitchen floor has just begun.
I guarantee you that I’ll think about Barry Joyce every time I blow leaves this Fall–and that will be a lot. Also, as I think about where Barry is now, I will be reminded that he and I will one day stand not beside a pile of leaves but on streets of gold.
Todd E. Brady serves as Staff Chaplain and Advanced Funeral Planner at Arrington Funeral Directors. He and his wife, Amy have five sons. You may write to him at email@example.com.