Originally published in the Lititz Record, March 11, 2021. Reproduced here because it was probably the best received of my seven years of columns in that paper.
You likely don’t know what a Forstner bit is. Despite being a mechanic and “tool guy,” I spent most of my years not knowing, either, until my good friend Reid loaned me one for a garden project that required a flat-bottomed hole. Wow! I had to have a set of my own; so when one came available locally on Craigslist, I snapped it up.
For years after, that set of Forstner bits had been sitting, unused. For years a fire extinguisher had been sitting on my garage floor, gathering leaves, cobwebs and other grunge around it. Well, one thing led to another, and cleaning up that mess led to permanently mounting the fire extinguisher on the garage wall, using one of those Forstner bits. Soon after, probably due to some subconscious connection, I took a completely different way home from a trip to Lancaster and found myself passing the house of the guy who long before had sold me that set.
Suddenly it occurred to me that there was a thread here–from my long friendship with Reid, to my wife and that original garden project, through that Craigslist guy, and now, to that red cylinder hanging on my garage wall. I was overtaken by the thought that with my demise that whole thread will be lost. People with no idea of that chain of related events, nor the thousands of other threads that define who I am, will come to an auction of my Forstner bits and other prized possessions, buy them for ten cents on the dollar, and help in the process of unraveling me forever.
After my mother passed away, I remember having to go through her house and fill a gigantic dumpster with the things that the auctioneer said weren’t of any value. That still left tons of good stuff. When that all went for next to nothing at the auction, I was truly depressed. Not because we didn’t make any money, but because the things that were so precious to her and so defining of her existence had been disbursed with so little valuation. She left this life with me sitting beside her, holding her hand. But at that auction, she died for good.
Same thing happened with my sister. Called in mid-winter to zero-degree Vermont by her sudden death, I was forced to clear out her apartment over two freezing days. The clothes went to a local charity, her amazing collection of books, that I had no time to browse nor catalog, went to the local thrift shop. Her car, which I had to dig out of a snow bank, went to her mechanic for a pittance. And the rest, lots of unique stuff, because she was a very unique person, was left for an auctioneer to come and collect. I wanted time to hold some of those things, to remember her by thinking and guessing about her threads. But I had just that brief 48 hours to clear out the place. All those connections, her entire essence, were gone in the wink of an eye.
Now my own time is nearing. And this reminder of my Forstner bit thread has put me in something of a philosophical funk. While I believe in God, I don’t believe in heaven, at least not in the conventional sense. Certainly, in the 11-dimensional universe predicted by M-theory, there are more mysteries than we will ever understand. So it’s possible, when I devolve into my constituent elements, there might be some mechanism for communing with the elements of those who’ve preceded me; but I’m not really counting on it. Instead, I’ll finish out my time here appreciating for myself the many interesting threads that make up the tapestry of my life. I’ll also hope that though this column I’ll continue to be able to share some of those with you, so that after they’re done picking though my threads, a few may endure
©2022, David B Bucher