Since I was a small boy, it has always been my dream to fence. The idea of using swords in conventional sport fascinated me in a way basketball, baseball, or soccer never could. Fencing actually became my bridge from being primarily an intellectual to an average sports fan - and I am the better for it.
Both in Minnesota and in Georgia, fencing allowed me to be a part of a community outside of work and the bar scene. I gained friends as a beginner, and I gained respect as my fencing improved and I learned to referee and coach. My social network grew, and people became attached to me as I became attached to them.
Being disconnected, especially when things go wrong is a sorrowful thing. When I took a spill after a night out, I was admonished by no less than 15 people - most of them from the fencing community. When one of my neighbors, who decided to drink himself into oblivion after a night out, died outside his home - only myself and another man were there to watch over him as emergency services arrived. I only met him for the first time the evening before.
Futilely trying to save a man's life tugs at one's heart. Being the only one who cares digs into one's soul. While only he and God know what demons led him to his fate, what I do know is that he had few connections to this life. Even in my darkest hours, there was always someone God had sent to pull me back into the light. A family member, a friend, a frater, a fencer, a pretty girl who thought I was handsome too; there was always someone to pull me from the brink - and chastise me for getting too close.
If you find yourself reading this - click on some ads and then call or meet someone you are close to in your life. If you don't have someone, meet someone. We all have to die, but we shouldn't have to die alone.