My boss was out this morning which was nice for me as I could leave later and take a longer walk. The sun was already high in the sky when I left the house, so that was a big plus as well. We had scattered flurries last night and most of those flakes had settled into the cracks and crevices of the sidewalks, making it look as if Mother Nature got out her big sifter and let the icing sugar gently cover the cement. It was otherwise clear and dry, with no slipping and sliding at all, so I headed over to Emmons Boulevard.
It was quiet in the neighborhood as the early-morning scramble to take the kids to school and get thyself out of the house timely had already passed. The neighborhoods and streets were deserted but for the occasional squirrel bounding across the lawns or the soft twittering of birds clustered together in the bare trees.
It was peaceful.
The sun kept dipping in and out of the clouds, and those clouds were dark and brooding. Suddenly a flock of geese appeared overhead – just five of them – doing what geese do best, honking the entire time they were overhead . Soon they were gone and the silence was restored.
I got to the footbridge and looked in. The middle of the Ecorse Creek is still frozen over and covered with that same light dusting of snow, while on the fringes of the Creek, the ice has melted and water is lapping on the low banks. That rain we had yesterday probably did a number on the ice. I crossed the bridge, stayed at a good pace and wended my way toward the River.
I kept hearing the drone of a small plane flying overhead. Ever the pessimist, I looked up to the sky, hoping that it was not a plane in peril as it sounded close by, and boy was it flying low. It kept disappearing into the darker portions of the sky. Only when it went into a sunny area did I notice that it was pulling a banner. I didn’t notice the banner the first time as it was clear with black lettering on it. I stopped in my tracks to read the message. It said “Rest in Peace Eric E&J” and then it glided out of my sight once again.
Ahhh, I knew what that message was about. In yesterday’s online version of the local newspaper, they told the sad tale of a local businessman who lost his life Friday in a snowmobile accident in Paradise, Michigan in the U.P. He took a bad turn on the path and crashed into a patch of stumps and trees. The article got my attention right away because I knew this young man. He owned a tree-cutting business here in Lincoln Park and his company did work for the City.
On November 24, 2014 a terrible windstorm rolled through our City, and my neighbor Marge’s two plum trees incurred significant damage, splitting down the middle. Eric and his crew came the following day to remove the trees. I heard a rumble of large machinery and went to the front door to investigate. Within minutes, Eric and his crew got the machines revved up, had those two trees down, chomped up by a grinding machine and into a large mulch pile. I was fascinated how quickly they finished the job, in fact, I even wrote about E&J in that day’s blog post. A day or two later I was returning from walking and the crew was there again, this time cleaning up the mulch and spreading fresh dirt. I went over and said I could not believe how quickly they disposed of those two tall pear trees. I got big grins for that statement.
But, more significantly, Eric was a hero to my friend Ann Marie last Spring, after her 4 ½-month-old African Grey parrot escaped from their new apartment. He was tethered to a leash but flew away with the leash attached to the harness and got carried into the raging wind. He made a beeline for a fifty-foot tree in a neighbor’s yard in Allen Park, across the street from their apartment in Southgate. Ann Marie and her husband searched for Digger; they walked around the grounds, and finally saw the harness in a tree, but it was nightfall, and much too late to call a tree trimmer to rescue him. They were heartsick, as they believed they lost their beloved pet forever, not to mention that he would be spending the night in the pouring rain with temps dipping down to 36 degrees.
Saturday morning at 6:45 a.m. she called E&J and spoke to Eric Parrish who said he had an emergency job and promised he would be over as soon as he could. Finally, that big E&J truck rolled up and pulled into a nearby driveway. Up, up, up toward the sky this skilled tree trimmer went to retrieve one petite parrot as Ann Marie, and her husband, Steven, gazed up into the tree, two very anxious pet parents waiting on the news of their “baby”, because, to find this bird and have him healthy would be a minor miracle. Success! Eric grabbed Digger, gave a thumbs up and started his journey down to the ground, his little feathered friend in tow. The ordeal over, it was all smiles and a scolding afterward to the naughty and mischievous Digger.
I thought about this interaction, and how Ann Marie proclaimed Eric her “hero”, while I watched the plane circle ‘round and ‘round overhead, all the while the sad message trailing in the breeze.
Finally I headed toward home and decided to walk along Fort Street to extend my walk a little longer. I purposely strolled through Memorial Park which is directly across the street from Solosy Funeral Home where the plane continued buzzing by and family and friends gathered out front to comfort one another prior to Eric’s 11:00 a.m. funeral. Just as I suspected, heads were swiveling, just like mine, as they watched the little plane on its relentless journey. The pilot would buzz close by … more heads swiveled upward … then more hugs. Several E&J trucks were parked in front of the funeral home; there was a pickup truck whose bed was brimming over with huge chunks of cut wood and the other truck pulled tree cutting gear behind it. Up and down the street, and in every available space for many blocks, cars and trucks filled the lots and people were walking up the street, enroute to the funeral home.
Perhaps they, like me, were remembering a vibrant young man, snatched away much too soon in a tragic accident.
Or, maybe they, like me, saw the irony of a man whose livelihood was felling trees, only to be quietly felled by one himself.
Eric Parish died doing something he enjoyed, and, if we learn nothing else from the tragedy, we should learn the value of living each day to the fullest, doing the things you love to do and surrounded by those who make you happy.
In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. ~Abraham Lincoln
Back when you were just a little nipper you learned how little acorns grew up to be big oak trees. Those tall trees earn a ring in their woody trunks for every year they exist on earth. Their trunks often become gnarled or misshapen as they weather the years, but they continue growing, undaunted by time as they continue to reach for the sky.
Eric Parrish reached 43 rings – how many rings will you reach in your lifetime?
[Image by photograph Patrick Fore at Unsplash]