How do you celebrate a life wasted?
What do you do when the most memorable thing about someone is how they died?
Let me introduce you to my grandfather, Bob Welch. He was an alcoholic who spent more time staring into the bottom of a bottle than he did attempting to build a relationship with his family; his best friend was probably his bookie. I don’t have a lot of memories about my grandfather, but I do remember him constantly sneaking away with a sports page to call his bookie. Those are the memories you want to have of a grandfather.
This past week, this fall down drunk, who had lost his drivers license because of driving intoxicated, took a bus to reapply for his drivers license. Somehow, after he got off the bus – with a filled out California Drivers License application in his pocket – Bob Welch was hit by a train and pronounced dead at the scene.
My Dad called me to tell me and I didn’t believe him.
Not because Bob was dead, but because of the how. I was hit by his death not because of the loss of relationship, but because the fashion of his death was shocking. It’s not every day family members make a name for themself in the newspaper.
Bob Welch was hit by a train.
The alcoholic was hit by a train on his way to reapply for his driver’s license.
You can’t write stories this good. Real life is so much more fascinating. Life spins a story in ways we cannot fathom or imagine until it happens to us.
I’ve spent the past several days wrestling with what it means to mourn when a man like Bob Welch dies. It’s God’s job to judge – not mine. However, when the most memorable thing about a man is his death and positive memories don’t exist, the one thought that creeps through your mind is that his life was wasted.
Bob Welch, my grandfather, wasted his life one sip and bet at a time.
This is what I mourn.
I don’t mourn the loss of my grandpa; I mourned the loss of that grandfather years ago. I don’t mourn my father losing his father; I mourn the fact my father never had a relationship with his own father. I don’t mourn a life well lived, that made a difference in the world; I mourn a life wasted that a family was dealt front row seats to. I mourn because, unless there are things we didn’t see behind the scenes, Bob Welch did not know Jesus.
He chose to have his best life now, through Crown Royal and sports betting. He was hiding and running from something. I don’t know what it was. I mourn for that. I mourn for a man who wasted his life and won’t get it back.
I don’t know how this hits you. As a family we’ve been wrestling with how to honor a man like this. We don’t want to say cheap words and clichés that we don’t feel and aren’t true but we can’t celebrate his life.
Instead, I wonder if the tragedy of his life can be used to help someone, anyone, just one person, out there who is currently struggling with what Bob Welch did too. Maybe you’ve tried kicking the habit of a six pack a night but haven’t been able to do it. Maybe the four cocktails after work to help you fall asleep don’t seem like a big deal. I can’t speak for you, but I can speak for my family.
Alcohol kills; Alcohol does not heal wounds.
There is a better and greater source of life and healing than in the bottom of a bottle. Most importantly, my grandfather’s biggest issue was that he never admitted he had a problem – everyone else at AA was the alcoholic, not him.
If you have a family member or friend struggling with alcoholism, my heart goes out to you. As long as they are alive there’s hope.
If you’re the one struggling with alcoholism, take a warning from the life and “legacy” of Bob Welch. Get help. Get help now. It’s okay to not be okay; it’s okay to admit you have a problem. That doesn’t make you weak. Only a strong person can admit they need help and have a problem.
Please, the death of Bob Welch did not have to end this way, but it did.
Please, do whatever you can to find life outside the bottom of the bottle. I promise you it’s better. Everyone you know will appreciate you for it.
Don’t throw your life away like my grandfather did.