Everything in Life (Even Life) Has An Expiration Date...The Idea Is To Savor It Before It Expires

Sunday, April 28, 2019
Some people fall in love with vacation destinations, others with possessions, some with books or music.....me, well I have a soft spot for old buildings.  In the five years I've been writing this blog, I've acquired a handful of worn and tattered buildings that I've grown sentimental over.  One of them is this colorful shed-type structure in our frequented town of Easton, NY.

It's only been a couple of years since I've found this particular beloved structure, but that didn't lessen the love I've felt for it, in every season.

Blog followers know that Easton is a short drive from home for us, so it has become our 'go-to' destination when we need a roadtrip/photography 'fix'.  It was pretty obvious when we first discovered this gem that it had seen better days and its days ahead may be numbered.  So it became habit for each of our trips to Easton, that our ride would generally end with a visit to 'our barn' to check on its well being.  We knew in our hearts that at some point soon, we'd find our barn collapsed, its purpose fulfilled, it's mission complete.

Well, that dreaded day came.....on Easter afternoon.  We had enjoyed a lovely ride through Washington County soaking up the picturesque grey skies illuminated by the setting afternoon sun, the emergence of spring in the green grass and tree buds. We felt refreshed and renewed on this holy day of resurrection.  We had only one stop left before the sun set.....a check of our beautiful barn.  And that is when it hit......the lump in my throat and ache in the pit of my stomach.....the day had come and our barn was mournfully collapsed into a pile of rubble.  Somehow it seemed a more difficult pill to swallow...making this discovery on Easter Sunday.  And just as when an ailing family member passes after a long illness.....we are reminded that the loss is no less painful than when it happens suddenly.  A loss is a loss, no matter how much we are prepared.

This is the second time in recent months that we were forced to say goodbye to a beloved structure.  Another old barn in Amsterdam had been the subject of many photographs over these few years.

On our most recent ride after winter was over, we were shocked to find a pile of lumber in the place where a towering barn once stood.  In this case, the barn was dismantled for the sake of safety but the loss stung just the same.

My mind has a habit of making analogies and when I see these collapsed structures, it reminds me of our elders.  It reminded me of how vital and productive older folks remain when they are in 'use' - living with purpose, active, useful to someone, filling a 'need' for someone.  My almost 87 year old mother is a wonderful example of that.  She lives alone, looks 20 years younger than her chronological age, has a passion for so many things in life, is surrounded by friends, busy with activities of all sorts and living life with gusto.  Sometimes though....it is when folks lose their purpose, are not surrounded by loved ones...that they lose their passion, their luster, their importance and often their life.  These old structures have fulfilled their purpose, outlived their usefulness, been abandoned and are now gone.  We need to do what we can to treat people in our lives in a way that helps them remain vital and in tact.  We need to take care of each other.
And we need to live....with abandon.  These old barns, barely standing, boards missing, paint long faded testify to their usefulness, to their job well done.  Like this quote, "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow, What a ride!"  (Hunter S. Thompson).  That's how my mom lives!  And that's how these barns live....and die.

Thankfully I have photos to help remember these favorite structures of mine.  I also am blessed to have a most treasured memento, a sketch done for me by Brother Paul McCue.  No, this barn won't be forgotten, nor will the others I've captured, tattered and bulging, decayed and forlorn.  I love them now and will love them when all I have left are photos of their good 'ole days.  
 Let today's post be a reminder to live in the moment, take notice of the beauty around you, capture it for the future and hug a loved one and let them know they matter.  Share this with someone you know needs it!

Post Script:  The collapse of the barn is not the end to the story...although it feels like it for many.  This past week we reached out to the owners of the barn and were invited to visit and pick out a board from the barn to make into a momento.  Mary Alice and Joe Gillis, along with their daughter, Cathy, were three of the nicest people I could ever hope to meet.  Mary Alice's grandfather owned the property long ago.  He was a blacksmith and our favorite barn was his blacksmith shop.  Later his son, Mary Alice's dad, a carpenter, joined him in the barn where he did his carpentry.  He just so happens to be the man who built the Easton Library.  It was evident from our first handshake that we weren't the only ones in mourning over the barn's demise.  The Gillis' were suffering a huge sense of loss too, not just over the loss of a wooden structure, but over the loss of a building full of memories, memories from Mary Alice's childhood through the present day.  I always believe that God works in mysterious ways and I'm positive He had a hand in the timing of our visit.  Demolition of the barn was scheduled for two days later, so not only was this our last opportunity to see the barn standing, it was a time when the Gillis' were struggling with the reality of what was to come.  I'd taken so many photos of the barn over the past few years, from many angles in many seasons.  I was pretty sure the Gillis' had years worth of photos of the barn, but to repay their kindness in welcoming us into their home and giving us a piece of wood and some horseshoes, we brought them several prints of the barn and a copy of this blog post.  I didn't think it was much, but it was something to help them see their barn was indeed a special landmark that touched lives besides their own.  You can imagine how shocked I was to find the Gillis' did NOT have a bunch of photos of their barn.  Like most of us, they just lived and took the barn for granted, assuming it would always be there.  My photos clearly touched them and were a lasting piece of memorabilia of a barn full of life and memories, even after it is gone.  We spent two hours talking and sharing stories about Easton, their lives there, our favorite photo ops there and when we left we felt like our lives were better for having met them.  These folks owed us nothing, much less an invitation into their home, but they gave us so much more than an open door.  They gave us a sense of gratitude, belonging and honor.  They gave us a reminder that when we give to others, even something as small as a few photos, we are giving of ourselves and we never know exactly just how much of an impact that gift may have ....on the receiver or on ourselves.  Ironically while we were there, a pretty nasty thunderstorm came through, followed by a beautiful rainbow and a gorgeous summer night.  Again...I believe God had his hand in this night...from beginning to end.  It's going to be hard going forward driving past Wells Road, seeing the empty space our beloved barn once stood.  I can't imagine how hard it will be for the Gillis' coming to terms with the void outside their window, but one thing I know for sure, the memories of the happenings and people inside that barn will live on.  They'll live on in the stories Joe and Mary Alice tell their grandchildren, and the stories Cathy tells the great grandchildren one day.  And now there'll be photos to go along with those stories.  It may have only been a building, but it was really so much more. That humble little building that was the start of blacksmith works, and carpentry jobs, was the source of joy, anticipation, and ultimately sadness for me.  It took me on a roller coaster ride and when the ride was through, I was a different person for having experienced it.  Thank you to the Gillis family for sharing their barn, their story and their friendship with me!

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