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Spirit Stories: In Your Own Words

Free to be a better man

By: Gayle Cue

It was a Monday, the 5th of January, 1998, our first grandson's first birthday. I started the morning with joyous celebration for a new life. On my way to work, I drove by Izak's house to give him a birthday hug and make plans for cake and ice cream after work, but that would never eventuate. Sometime that afternoon one of our friends stopped by to see Clide and found him slumped over in his chair, with open pill bottles scattered at his feet. He hadn't taken any chances on missing the mark.

Our friend, Greg, came directly to the shop and I think I knew when I saw his face but still I made him say it. "What? What's wrong?" I pleaded. He forced himself to speak. "He's done it. He's done it, darlin'. It's over. He's gone. There's pill bottles everywhere." No. No. No rang around the room from that moment on.

As anyone who has experienced death of a loved one knows, the next few days happen by grace. Friends come by, offer words of comfort. They bring food so that someone can insist you eat. Phone calls are made to notify family. The children return home. Options are discussed. Arrangements are made. Venues are booked. And, slowly, the world starts to come back into focus.

On Wednesday, Les Taylor, who presents the Blues Show on Bay FM Community Radio, told me he would be dedicating his show on Thursday night to Clide. When I hung up the phone I went to my stereo and checked the reception. Yes, Bay FM was coming in loud and clear. I made a note to record the program the following night.

I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday looking through bookcases, closet shelves and dresser drawers, trying to find a notebook of Clide's poetry. He hadn't written any poetry in several years but the poems he wrote in the early eighties were priceless. I had typed them up and put them in a book many years ago. But now, when I wanted it most, I was unable to find it. I desperately wanted his poetry read at the memorial service. I felt it was important for his friends, but more importantly his children, to remember the poet who lived inside of that broken body.

I was in such pain that initially the need to find the poetry was a gentle distraction, a means of focusing beyond the grief. Two days into the search however, the gentle distraction had turned to frustration and was increasing to anger.

Thursday night arrived in the haze of plans, still no poetry to be found. A few minutes before the Blues Show was to begin, I turned on the radio in order to get the tape recording set up. The reception was appallingly poor. I couldn't have listened to the show, let alone record it. My simmering anger came to a full boil. Between exclamations of cursing, I discovered my receiver didn't have an FM antenna on it. Why hadn't this shown up yesterday when I tested it? Tears pouring down my cheeks, I started rummaging through the chest of drawers next to the stereo looking for the FM antenna. I was tossing things out of the drawers left and right and then I saw it. There at the bottom of the pile of recordings was the notebook of Clide's poetry.

"I've found it!" I exclaimed in amazement. "I've found Clide's poetry."

Suddenly the radio reception became clear again. The signal was crystal clear. No FM antenna was needed. I knew, in that moment, that our relationship would continue to exist even though we were now in different dimensions. I knew Clide had interfered with the FM reception which caused me to search for the antenna in the one place I would find his poetry. He was free at last, free to be a better man.

A Better Man

by Clide Cue

Always the circles,

Seems I would've learned by now.

Forever the cycles,

Somebody tell me how.

Cause I want to be

a better man.

A better man

than I am now.

Cause I want to be

a better man.

Somebody tell me how.

Sometimes you're lonely,

Afraid, and you don't know why.

When you hit bottom,

You wish only to know how to cry.

That's when you want to be

a better man.

A better man

than I am now.

Cause I want to be

a better man.

Nobody needs to tell me how.

And sometimes you're cloudy,

You just can't get rid of the rain.

But we all need that mirror

To see ourselves, face our shames,

But tomorrow I will be

a better man.

A better man

than I am now.

Cause I want to be

a better man.

I'm the only one who knows how.

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