Today is January 20, 2019.

Yesterday, I turned fifty-three years of age.

Level 53.


It’s been nearly a year since I wrote a blog post. I’ve worked on some stories, however, over the past year and hope to start sharing again soon. I’ve also worked on my business, spent time with friends and family, helped family, played with grandkids, and a whole slew of other things both simple and complex.

I awoke on my birthday with an air of contentedness. At age fifty-three, I still feel physically pretty great, though I could still stand to lose a few pounds and boost my activity level. I had my team at my business surprise me with some birthday celebration festivities. I still have a roof over my head, a loving relationship, and much much more.

I haven’t focused on anything negative over the past couple of days, with a few exceptions, which I won’t repeat here as it serves no purpose.

No, I spent the yesterday and today with a bit of reflection on ‘fifty-three’ and how do I really feel about it all, where I’ve been, and where I’m going.

As with most of my stories and inner dialogue, it all ended by circling back to Star Trek. I ended my birthday by binge watching five of the newest Star Trek series “Discovery” episodes.

As I drifted off to sleep considering what I’d watched, I realized how much it mirrored my own time on this planet.

You see, the new show was called Star Trek, it was based on Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek, and had many elements of Star Trek, but it just isn’t “Star Trek” to me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s well written, great effects, and good stories, but it’s just not quite… right.

This got me thinking about growing older…ahem… achieving higher levels.

As each year passes, it’s not about ‘getting off my damn lawn’ or even ‘the good ‘ole days.’ It’s about the experiences you had when you’re younger compared to the experiences as you get older.

Remember the first scary movie you watched? The first kiss. The first… anything? Sure, movies are still scary, but much more immersive. A kiss is still thrilling and more, but not like the ‘first.’ And new technology that comes out isn’t so much that it is difficult, it’s just new. Handing a smartphone to a baby boomer who has seen the progression of desk and wall phones, pay phones, cordless phones, cell phones, flip phones, Blackberry’s… all that allowed you to call people… now have a piece of technology that allows calls sure, but also videos, business, banking, conferences, movies, photography, videography, and much more all rolled into one. Heck, it took me a while to use ‘bitmoji’ (which one of my friends says I should NOT be using at my age). You can send people photos, audio, and video of yourself – recorded or live – instead of emojis if you want.

So, as a kid, I would answer the phone, stretch the coiled cord into my room and close the door to talk to my friend or girlfriend for privacy. Now, I get on my smartphone and can take a walk, drive my car, or go into my room and close the door for privacy.

Like the new Star Trek: Discovery show, using the phone is the same, but… different.

Television shows have similar plots, set ups, but much tighter writing, cool effects, humor, realism, and over time… the same, but… different.

Food has many of the favorites, some new flavors, some new packaging, and over time… the same, but… different.

Friends have changed over time based on interests, our paths, and while some have continued over the years, many have come and gone all with personalities, humor, stories, and more that reflect my own life’s path and so a friend I have now may feel… the same, but… different.

I’m not the first person to reach level 53, I get it. I won’t be the last.

But, tonight, on the night of the Super Blood Wolf Moon Total Eclipse, I realize that the days ahead will continue to be filled with wonderful things, terrible things, and all things in between. I know that the old saying, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you decide to react to what happens” is very important and correct. I will continue to celebrate and rejoice in the wonderful things and will choose to respond to the terrible things by simply shouting “Plot Twist!” and move on. And for everything in between? I will react appropriately as I strive to attain level fifty-four in about three-hundred and sixty-three days from now.

Memorial for My Mother

Memorial for My Mother

This blog entry comes a few months into 2018 and the first blog I’ve written since my memorial to my dad and his passing last September 2017. Of course, this is a bit of a cheat as I’m actually going to share with you the memorial speech I gave at my mom’s service in 1997 on August 13. While we did have a chaplain from where my mother worked, I wanted to make sure it was done ‘right.’

My brother and sister both contributed, I think they recorded their sections. I, on the other hand, created at least four drafts. I remember standing up in front of family, friends, old neighborhood kids, and even my dad and my uncle (mom’s brother). I stumbled through it all and didn’t break down until we played the bagpipe version of Amazing Grace towards the end.

This past weekend, I’ve had to go back through all the boxes in our storage unit. Now, keep in mind, somehow I’ve been the ‘keeper of things’ since mom died, though there have been several purges over the years specifically when moving. The last move was done in a rush and many boxes had things thrown in to sort in a few months after we got settled. Yeah, that was four years ago. Time’s up!

The culling has been severe, but I’ve found a few gems, a few turds, and lots of memories…good, bad, and bittersweet. Reading through the various versions of the memorial, I kept thinking, “I thought I said something about X or Y?” and then I found the typed up version. I have a foggy memory that I took all the rough notes that I had been working on all the way to the last minute and made the final presented version. It seems to have everything I remember saying, plus a bit more I had forgotten about until reading.

Yes, it still hard. And yes, it brought up stuff about my dad too. Of course.

One final note before I share the memorial: Mom had passed away suddenly after a year of being sober after not being sober for many years. It was a shock and so sudden that we were not prepared at all. Having experienced both ends of the spectrum, neither are good (of course), sudden was easier in some regards, but we never got to say ‘goodbye,’ find out stories or learn recipes. But, watching someone suffer over the course of a year was brutal in its own rights.

I promise I’ll share stories and humor again soon. it’s been more trying than I imagined it would be. Some of you understand. Some don’t. And that’s okay. I hope you never have to.

Mom’s Memorial Service August 13, 1997

(My Part)

I want to thank everyone for coming and to thank those who wanted to but couldn’t.

There’s not enough time or proper words to truly describe who my mother was or what she meant to me.

Over the past few days, I have come to realize how many people’s lives we touch with our own. Sometimes only for a brief moment. And how, from time to time, someone special comes along and touches our lives.

My mother was a special person. She had an inner caring light that she shared with everyone around her. She had a strong soul that was tested heavily the past few years after her parents passed away. She triumphed over adversity with help from those around her. This past year, my mom came back to her children and became Pat to her friends once again.

I won’t go into a lengthy biography, except to say that my mom had several lives.

She had her life growing up in Pennsylvania. Twirling her baton while a marching band played. Looking to the night sky with the Astrophysical Club while Sputnik soared across the sky. Waiting tables in Ocean City, Maryland in the summer. Dancing with Gregory Hines in the Catskill Mountains when she attended Penn State College.

Her college friend, Katy Ping, said my mom would “always do what was conventional, even if it wasn’t always socially acceptable.”

She raised her kids to respect others, no matter how different they are. She was a student of the world. In recent years she kept true to form and dove head first into a complex computer mapping program for the Little Rock Police Department that few in the country can operate.

She touched each of us. We all know in what ways. Sadly, we forget until they are gone. But don’t be sad. Be happy that we had an opportunity to be with her.

Protecting her brother. Accepting a marriage proposal. Paying a babysitter. Swinging a child. Helping a single mother. Bandaging a cut or scrape. Cooking cinnamon rolls. Cooking Pot Pie. Cooking spaghetti and meatballs…

Listening to a beginning trumpet player, then a flute player, and then a choir singer. Giving praise for excelling and support for failure. Make each of us realize how special our individuality is. How important it is to NEVER stop learning. She never did.

Mom had some hard times, but she had great friends and you will never know how much it means to us that you helped her. And while it took her strength to take that final step, never forget that you gave her extra time. This past year has been filled with loss and mom has helped all of us through it.

I won’t go into much more. To be honest, I’m having trouble during all this remembering specific conversations with my mom. I hope they will come to me in time.

What I do remember is also what is helping me get through all this:

She loved her life being a crime analyst at the police department as well as the people she worked with. The technology both thrilled her and aggravated the hell out of her. She loved the vastness of the ocean and the promises of space. A campy science fiction show called Star Trek held for her the idea of a future where people got along and quested for the unknown, always learning as they explored.

She was happy living in Sheridan with a man instrumental in bringing her through the hard times. Mom told us kids how much she loved Carroll and so we all considered him her husband.

And she also seemed happy that her children had grown up into being people she enjoyed being with.

She was happy. Even though she’s gone now, I know she was happy.

Her friend Dave Parker remembered a conversation he had with her about dying. A passage in the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran held special meaning. A teacher once told her she could never sing. She didn’t have the voice. So she never tried.

“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

In closing, I just want to say I remember her always being there. Whether nearby or far away. I know mom was thinking about me. And while I might not have been at the front of her mind, I knew that no matter what, If I ever needed to, I could always go home.

Say “hi’ to grandpa, mom.

Dad, RIP

Dad, RIP

Last Breath

My brother, sister, and I sat around the bed our dad lay in watching each breath get more brief and shallow. It had been nearly six days of making sure there was no more pain, but that also meant there was no more ‘dad’ for us to connect with. I watched this once pivotal, bigger than life, story-teller of a man shrink and drift away.

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

And then a long pause.

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale. …

Another long pause.

We each placed a hand on him.

inhale. …

exhale. …

inhale. …

exhale. …

The vein in his neck stopped pulsing.

exhale. … …

We all looked up and said ‘good-bye’ as we imagined him finally being free of the pain he had suffered over the past year, both physically, and emotionally.

On September 2nd, 2017 at approximately 8:00 pm CST, my dad died.

The next hour or so was the three of us cleaning up the hospice room we’d been in for nearly a week, taking turns sleeping overnight, waking when his breathing changed, or chatting with family and friends who came to visit. But, to me, he had been gone for nearly a week.

With my wife and my brother-in-law present, both coming to hospice after dad’s passing, we said a prayer and a final goodbye as dad’s body lay in bed cool to the touch. We all left, and the funeral home people went in to take dad away for cremation. I decided to stay in the hall outside, while everyone continued to walk to the exit… except my wife who stayed by my side, holding me – just holding on to me.

I was his firstborn. I felt it my job to at least see his body taken away. Probably wasn’t, though. It was actually the first time I got choked up thinking about the fact that the man who had been there since the day I was born was really gone.


My feeling that this just couldn’t be happening had been going on for months. That there was no way dad could die from this stupid thing called cancer. His family genetics were strong and his own parents grew to be in their 80s and 90s, not a mere 74 years of age. His sister was sixteen years older and his brother, who had unfortunately passed away a little over a year earlier, was ten years older. How could dad die of cancer?

Where my denial came into play was only a few weeks earlier, just before the total eclipse of 2017 that was visible in the United States.

My dad had beat the cancer that had formed a tumor in his neck. Cancer was not a surprise. He was a weapon’s specialist in the Air Force during Vietnam loading up bombs, some of which were radioactive. He also smoked for years – apparently saying since he was fourteen, “But I’ve quit several times and can anytime I want,” he would tell us still smelling fresh cigarette smoke in the air.

There had been many issues as he had been in the VA system and from the time he was diagnosed to the time he started treatment was nearly three months or more. But we thought with the cessation of smoking, he’d have many years ahead.

There was no way he wouldn’t beat this too.

But a few months after finding out he had beat the throat cancer, they found spots on his lungs. His mental exhaustion kicked in. It was apparent he was tired of the process and had thought once he had finished the throat treatments, he could return to a normal semblance of life again.

Sunday’s were our time to ‘get out’ of the VA Retirement Home and grab a Dr. Pepper or snack and drive around town. While the conversations always started kind of negative, most of the time, by the end of the drive, there was hope and positivity.

When the treatment was to begin for the lung cancer, and dad’s physical issues really came into play: cataracts, on-going back problems, swallowing and refusing to even try to eat, receive physical therapy, or even speech therapy (for eating), I started to get really irritated with my dad.

How could he not do everything that was asked of him to beat the cancer?


Now here is where I vent.

We all were furiously frustrated with the VA System, the doctors, the hospitals, and many others for taking so long to get started. Once started, the process seemed overly complicated. My siblings and our spouses set up smartphone apps, email addresses, and more just to track all the medications, appointments, reports, logins, and crazy documents.

Dad would complain about the various staff, the doctors, the medications, the retirement home and staff, how he felt, the food, and many other things that escape me at the moment (or that I’ve blocked out).

All of us changed our schedules, missed meetings, missed days of work and home life. We tirelessly organized rides, made calls, and paid bills. All the while listening to our dad complain. ‘Was he always this way?’ I would ask myself.

His back hurt. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t taste anything. He couldn’t swallow. He couldn’t shower. On and on and on.

Compassion told me that he had isolated himself and needed connection.

Anger said he did it to himself. Sitting for ten to fifteen years in front of a computer, drinking beer, often smoking, not exercising, not eating well – or at all. He had ‘done everything’ he had wanted in life but did not participate in it at all. The few visits he had with his kids were generally relegated to us visiting him. His visits lasted an hour or so and he would leave.

Not always, mind you. He had engaged with us early on when he arrived after leaving his second wife in Canada. He joined a multi-level marketing company my wife and I tried involving ‘healthy’ chocolate. He even went out on some dates, but – from feedback we heard – they did not go well. He would go out to dinners, and events, and stayed active. Until he went to live by himself.

But I was angry because I knew if he didn’t do everything he could to beat the cancer, I would lose my dad. My dad who pushed me to do the hard things to be better. To follow the things you love to do. To experience the world. To – and here is where I get a little cheesy – seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before! Yes…he introduced me to Star Trek.

So when I got the call, after a particularly rough two weeks, that dad just wanted to go to hospice and die.

I was so angry I went numb.


“If only he hadn’t left mom and moved to Canada,” I thought.

“If only I had met up with him more often.”

“Made him get his back fixed.”

“Forced the doctors to start treatment sooner.”

“Been a better son.”

Yeah.  All that ‘bargaining’ and more went on and still does. But most of it goes back to wishing he had done things differently. I know that’s the selfish part, as now he’s not here to talk to, ask questions about the family, talk about heraldry, or just listen to his crazy stories. Stories, which we discovered after his passing, were what nearly all our friends in high school loved about coming to our house. Stories his friends shared.

I cannot recall a single fictional story, like short stories or novels, that he ever wrote, but I can recall a time my brother and I caught him making up a story to our sister’s boyfriend (way back in the day). It was the first time we caught him and it was huge for my brother and me to discover that, indeed, he made stuff up. He constantly defended his authenticity, but we knew the truth.

All that being said, I think the only thing I’d really like to bargain for is less for me and more for some of his friends and family. Too late we realized we could have used video calls to allow him some final words, but in the end, he said he was sorry. “I feel like I’ve let everybody down.” We tried to convince him we thought otherwise. And sad that one of his friends from high school drove nineteen hours to say goodbye only to find dad already drifted off in a morphine haze. He had said ‘no food or water’ and to bring him out of the drugged state would more than likely have been excruciating. His friend stayed for about three hours, visited with us, stood over dad’s hospital bed sharing some words, and left.

The trouble with dad’s oldest son is (as he writes briefly in third person), is that he knows what is right, why people do things they do, and can logically understand why his father made the choices he did until his death, but he feels let down – and guilty because of it.


This is not my first ‘death’ in the family.

Although I wasn’t as close to my grandparents, since they lived so far away in Pennsylvania, I still felt pretty sad. Though, if I’m honest, I think I felt more empathy for my parents at their loss.

My mother died twenty years earlier, suddenly. She had also struggled with smoking and severe alcohol addiction – one of the things that drove my dad away and had him file for divorce. We hadn’t ‘seen’ her for several years. Every encounter was a repeat of things discussed, or random slurred discussions we knew wouldn’t be remembered the next time we spoke. We were stunned when she showed up after a three-hour drive already intoxicated.

Luckily, after a second hospitalization due to extreme intoxication, an intervention with friends and family occurred and she went into rehab for several weeks. When she came out, it was the first time we had seen and heard our mom in years. She did the normal steps from those kinds of programs and apologized to us. We said, “We’re all still here, mom.” She looked and said, “Not all of you.” And we knew, she meant dad.

She had always said he had been a crappy husband but had been an awesome friend, and a great dad.

That year, several people she knew passed away. I attended a few of the funerals.

One week, mom called me at work. Busy, I told her I’d give her a shout that night. I didn’t call. I was watching a movie and feeling lazy.

Arriving at work early, I got the call she passed away the night before sometime. They were certain it was sudden. Sitting on the edge of the bed, one foot propped up on the edge, one on the floor, she was laying back with one hand on her temple – as if simply resting for a moment. I recalled the phone call and remembered she said she’d been fighting a bad headache.

The verdict was an aneurysm sometime after ten o’clock. About an hour or so later than when I said I’d call…and didn’t.

It was about two or three months later when I recognized that I wasn’t sleeping well, was breaking out into rashes, and otherwise feeling bad. I didn’t drink, at the time, but I did eat poorly.

Coming out of that experience, I know things to watch in myself for similar depression symptoms. I also know I’ve created an environment so stressful, that it is simply allowing me to avoid depression, sadness, and all the grief. I am careful in most other aspects, but part of writing this as a coping mechanism for what I’m currently feeling; hopelessness.

What’s it all for? What’s next? What am I supposed to do? How much time do I have left? My mom was 54 when she died. I’m 51 at the moment. Do I have another 23 until I reach dad’s age of 74? How can I motivate myself to do more? Be more?

Luckily, it’s all just ‘this moment.’ I’ve followed a fairly optimistic viewpoint in life. Maybe with a little pessimism. “Expect the worst. Hope for the best.” I heard…from dad, really. I have started three businesses in the past, endured heartbreak, loss, and failure. So, hopelessness for me is fleeting, but often crushing – only for a bit.

This phrase came to me while writing: As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life. I like that.

I wish dad would have believed it a little bit more.


This part has already come to pass.

While I don’t like accepting what has happened and will no doubt loop around the five stages of grief, I do accept it. Unlike my mother’s death, I was with my dad when he transitioned. I had better closure, I think.

Still so fresh in my heart, his passing, I still find times where I start to call him or think, ‘I should bring dad here,’ when I find a place or food he’d like. Reality quickly crashes back in, but not horribly. With my mom, it was more intense, but infrequent, and took a long time to heal. With dad, he made his choices, he lived his life, and he chose when he was done.

Mostly, and the whole reason I’m even slightly accepting of his passing is that I couldn’t stand to watch my dad suffer so much pain. My heart tells me that some of the pain he experienced was simply from numbing himself for years with beer, cigarettes, video games, and zoning out. That, in the end, he had to really feel all the things he had shoved away. Many conversations were had about mom, his leaving, his regret, and more. We’ll never really know what happened between our parents. Mom never really said. Dad only said a few things after mom passed, but they seemed – unimportant, somehow.

I’d like to think – envision – the two of them together as they were as teenagers. Before dad’s open heart surgery. Before mom’s struggles. Before money, fights, and struggles, that pushed them apart. Before their own parents passed. Even before us kids – though I know they loved us all.

No, I like to think of them back in their high school days, out with their science club on a hillside in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on a dark night, their telescope out watching the stars, laughing, in awe, and thinking of a bright shiny future filled with possibilities.


David Earl Huber
Sept 30, 1942 – Sept 2, 2017
“See you in a bit” – Dave

Facebook Memorial

On Pain

~ Kahlil Gibran

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

Heading Back to Elementary School

Heading Back to Elementary School

Sometime between sixth grade elementary and seventh grade junior high, my father brought home a tape recorder that was designed for hearing or vision impaired students. It was bright orange and all the buttons were colored and had braille on them. But besides being such a vibrant styled tape recorder, it had two other unique functions: variable speed and play-in-reverse.

It was AMAZING! I could slow recordings down, speed them up, play them in reverse (slow or fast). But, being a fan of radio plays, record albums with stories, and most of all, the Orson Wells version of War of the Worlds radio broadcast, I was able to reproduce many of the cool effects I heard in audio recordings.

In sixth grade, having been recently exposed to Star Wars (which was life changing for me) and being a fan of Cracked and Mad magazines, I had started writing stories that were parodies of my favorite shows and movies. Specifically, a series of stories titled “Star Crack” about a goofball captain named Captain Joke and his trusty science officer Mr. Pimple. They were, of course, amalgams of myself,  my best friend at the time, and a couple of TV characters you may be able to guess. He, the funny class clown, and more popular was Captain Joke, and with my newly sprouting acne issues, and more academic mindset (not to mention my ‘by the rules’ activity that landed me as a Safety Patrol officer), I was Mr. Pimple.

I won’t bore you with the adventures of the USS Refuse (the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy) or their first trip to the planets Caramel, Chocolate and Nougat foiling the nefarious Klingtoes evil plot by creating “Milky Way” candy bars to make them all fat. NO! I won’t bore you with that or their other adventures, but I will tell you what happened as we entered seventh grade.

No, not the awkward teenage issues (there were many) or bullies (there were some…that all seemed to have the name Tony for some reason) OR the Friday night skating rink adventures. NO dear reader, I will tell you of the librarian who asked if my friend and I would be interested in recording our stories, creating art, and making slideshows to set up in the library in a listening pod.

I was SO excited and, of course, fearful of being judged. Honestly, and more precisely, I was fearful that my crush – who shall remain nameless – wouldn’t think I was ‘cool.’ Not that she ever did. But other people liked them. So I did a few more and kept writing odd stories ever since. But those audio programs were just plain fun.

Some 40 years later, I remember recording various sound effects with some electronics kit I had, a trip into a black hole that slowed time (and lowered voices), as well as creating echoing voices in the empty underbelly of the USS Refuse’s empty bowels (ewwwww).

All this reminiscing got me thinking about all the tools, software and experience in production I have. So, dear readers, I decided to transform one of my recent short stories into an audio program. Not quite an audio drama, but more than a simple reading.

Below is a culmination of about 8-10 hours of production (and a few more hours of brainstorming and researching). Of course, I’ll get faster as I learn. Already I’ve found some great podcasts, gotten some good information on equipment, and otherwise stupendous feedback on how to make each one better. I won’t lie. I’m not going to pull a George Lucas and keep rerecording stories, but I’ll try to learn as I go along.

I’ve been trying to write and post a new short story every month and am currently at tad behind due to, well, you all know… life.

I hope you all enjoy this audio version of Palengenesis. You can visit the link if you prefer to read. I’ve added the audio version on that page as well.


by Eric Huber | Stories from the Edge

Notes: I found a photo and video showcasing what is referred as a book player from the Telex corporation circa 1975-76

© 20016 Eric Huber. Palingenesis is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Artwork by Eric Huber

©2017 Audio recording by Eric Huber. Music from | Kwartet Japonski I by Maciej Żołnowski | The Warbird EP by Tri-Tachyon | Additional audio from NASA

The Piano

The Piano

The Path

The feeling of the brisk air on his face, the sound of the wind shaking leaves from the trees, and the smell of pine in the woods on a beautiful sunny fall day all combined together did absolutely nothing to offset the feeling of utter loss Joe had experienced just a few short weeks ago.

As a man, Joe was taught that you were supposed to be the strong one. The one everyone leans on. He was not expected to feel loss, pain, or even suffer like his wife when a miscarriage occurred. And while it’s true that the experience is not the same, it doesn’t mean that a man, like Joe, could simply move on or ‘get over it.’

And when he found out that it was much, much worse than a miscarriage, that it was a trauma of such magnitude that children were not even a possibility anymore, Joe’s world fell apart.

He fell to his knees.

He actually broke.

But we all heal.

Scars cover the wounds.

And after time passes a man, such as Joe, begins to feel something besides pain and sorrow again. Every now and then he laughed. But immediately he felt guilty as he realized the enormity of what was lost.

It’s not just the loss of a child, but the loss of the entire future imagined ahead of him, his wife and the child, and the child Joe and his wife named Joy.

She was actually going to be named Joy. The irony left Joe and his wife with sorrow instead.

It wasn’t long before well-meaning people started saying, “You can always adopt.” Trying to give hope for building the family they had planned and talked about for several years. And while they could have done so, and it would have been wonderful, the thing they were ignoring was what was lost.

You see, Joe got to hold Joy in his arms on the day she was born. He stayed up with her at night when his wife was too tired. He watched her first steps. Made her laugh uncontrollably. Joy would run to Joe when she was scared in the middle of the night because monsters lurked under the bed, in the closet, or in the shadows. She would fall asleep in his arms after a long day of playing, laughing, and exploring the outdoors. Joe would carry her from his parent’s house to the car as her head lolled to one side completely oblivious to the world; trusting so completely that she never stirred. And when he tucked her in at night, she’d would curl up on her side and softly snore as she tightly hugged her favorite bunny doll next to her.

His wife stayed at home with Joy taking time out from her home business to play, cook, dress up, draw, sing, dance, and learn. They’d have entire performances ready for Joe to watch after he’d get back from a long day at the office.

Their inevitable trip to Disney World when she turned six was miraculous. Watching her wide-eyed amazement of all the movie characters come to life was sheer happiness for Joe and his wife.

Her first school dance. Her first heartbreak. Her first solo. Her graduation. Her acceptance to college. Her first big job in her chosen career. Her husband. Her first born.

Joy was a dancer and an actress and a scientist and a mother.

But none of it happened. None of it would happen.

It was all gone.

Other people just didn’t get it.

They didn’t understand what was lost.

Joe and his wife didn’t talk about it either. Probably not the best approach, but they knew they’d just break down. Joe and his wife stayed focused on what they could do in front of them each day and tried to take the time to just heal. They spoke to their pastor and found some solace in their faith, even if not understanding God’s plan. They believed there was a purpose. There had to be.

But sometimes, a man has to break away and step out of his life for a time to just get some perspective. Perhaps even some enlightenment elsewhere to be free of his daily routine that keeps him locked into his feelings and his loss.

Joe had been strong. But he needed to not be. So Joe arranged for his wife’s sister to take her away for a few days to break her out of her daily rituals and Joe planned to do so for himself. Luckily, his wife silently understood. She knew Joe needed to grieve as much as she had to.

And so, he found himself hiking in the woods, passing other hikers who smiled and commented, “Beautiful day for a hike, isn’t it?” Joe would smile back and say, “Amazing!” or some such thing until they passed and he could let his happy visage slip away.

His trip to the woods was on a day after several weeks of cold wet weather. But the trails had dried up enough for hiking and they were packed with people from town ready for some sunshine. It was one of the reasons Joe chose this as his escape from reality as well.

But there were too many people. He grew weary of the pleasantries and decided to go off the trail and create his own path in the woods.

The Cliff

Joe must have just gone into auto pilot as he plunged headlong into the woods. One foot in front of the other. Mechanical. Methodical. Meditative.

The woods, usually fairly spacious, started to close in with a lot more underbrush than Joe ever remember. Where there weren’t underbrush, there were huge boulders. He had to slow down and consider his footsteps more carefully.

As he moved through the underbrush, he looked up for a moment and noticed the sun was reaching the noon hour and clouds were coming together. As he did, he managed to step into a leafy patch that had nothing beneath.

His left foot rolled sideways and Joe felt tendons pop. Keeping his wits about him, he tried to roll to the left to keep his foot from slipping down further and possibly breaking. Unfortunately, a large boulder was all that he had to catch himself. He missed with his hand and, instead, hit the boulder hard with the left forearm and raked it down across it before finally hitting the ground.

Pain and fire shot across his arm, which he was sure was not broken, but definitely scraped and bruised – perhaps even lacerated. He quickly freed his foot from the hole he’d slipped into. He could move his toes, but the ankle was definitely sprained and swelling.

Joe laid there for a while, cursed a bit, and yelled in frustration a little more than he’d admit to others later. It was like he had to let out some primal screaming with the hell he’d been through – they both had been through.

It felt good. So still laying on his back, he screamed again. He screamed until his throat was raw.

The pain, sorrow, and loss were still there, however.

It didn’t vanish.

He didn’t know how long he had laid there screaming. He started to wonder if someone had heard him and grew concerned that someone may think he was in real trouble and needed help.

Slowly Joe sat up and took stock of his condition.

Besides his throat being sore, and his abs aching from the spasms of crying, he rolled up his left sleeve to find that his arm was pretty scraped up and a little bloody. He could twist his arm, flex his fingers and no blood was gushing out, just really bruised and battered. It wasn’t broken or fractured and definitely still usable.

Joe’s foot, however, was a little different. As he removed his hiking boot, and rolled off his sock, Joe found the ankle to be crazy swollen and the side of his foot, where he felt the tendons pop, were bruised and swollen as well.


Sitting there, he again flexed his foot and wiggled his toes, all without any serious pain. While the foot was throbbing, there was no piercing pain. He thought that was good and counted his blessings.

Slowly, Joe rolled his sock back on and put his boot back on which caused some discomfort. He then laced up the boot tight and tried standing up.

‘THERE’S the pain!’ Joe thought as it shot from the whole foot up to his brain.

He quickly used the boulder for balance (instead of a cheese grater this time). Joe put a little weight on his foot and it was a little less painful. He took some time to take some short steps, and it got even a little better. The problem now was that he was a little off balance.

Looking around, Joe found a wood of some weight, length and strength and started using it as a walking stick.

Before moving on, however, Joe sat on the boulder and broke out his pack to clean up his bloody arm. While there, he also took a short lunch break and considered how he would proceed with his hike from here on out.

With the weather still nice, but cloudy, Joe decided to keep hiking. He hadn’t been to this part of the woods and was interested in what may lay ahead.

With his arm cleaned up, foot taking his weight, and pack all stowed, Joe grabbed his new walking stick and made his way through the brush which was still surprisingly dense.

The wind started to kick up and he could hear the sound of water flowing ahead. After some time and effort, the brush started to thin to the point where he just had to duck and dodge a few branches.

With just a few steps more, there was a sudden break in the tree line and a huge outcropping of stone lay ahead. Joe stepped out from the tree line and saw it was a rocky ledge overlooking a valley with a small river that flowed below – the source of the water sound he had heard.

Joe stepped closer to the cliff to get a better view just as the sun broke free of the clouds and shined a beam down upon the valley. It was glorious. All the pain and suffering of the hike made this moment especially fantastic to see.

Finally having a bit of a good feeling was nice, but as always, it didn’t last long.The guilt kicked in. Joe dropped his shoulders and slumped. His head dropped  looking straight down. When he did, he got a bit of the vertigo feeling and started to step back from the ledge. But just then, a thought hit him, ‘Why not just fall?’ Why not let go of all this pain and move on?

But Joe stepped back from the ledge suddenly and reflected, ‘What if I didn’t die and just ended up paralyzed? My wife would have to take care of me the rest of our lives… if she even would after everything else.’

Joe sat down and stared at the view.

There were no sounds now but the wind above and water below. No traffic from the trails. No highway noise. No planes. Joe was surprised there were no trails to this spot with such an amazing view.

He pulled his pack off and laid back on it using it as a pillow and stared into the sky.

After some time, he noticed two eagles played on the currents of wind nearly directly above where he lay. They seemed to just hang above him in the air at times as the wind was so strong and steady. He wondered what it would be like to fly on the currents of the wind. He wondered if these events were simply currents that needed to be coasted upon instead of fighting against them. The eagles didn’t fight. They soared.

Joe’s mind cleared. He stayed in the moment watching the eagles.

He listened to the water that flowed in the valley below.

He drifted into sleep.

The Dischord

Joe woke with the sound of music.

It must have been a dream. As he sat up, there was nothing but wind and the water nearby. The eagles had flown away. And the sun, still behind the clouds, was definitely lower than it had been when he nodded off.

Joe tried to remember what music was he dreaming about.

Getting up from his nap, he adjusted his pack over his shoulders and used his walking stick to stand up. Once again, the pain in his foot was jarring, but the more he moved around, the less it hurt.

He turned to gain his bearings and decided he should probably head back and that an overnight in the woods with the injuries he had may not be the best idea. While he had brought a tent along, he thought it might also be too cold in his present condition to sleep well.

Joe noticed that he had come through the trees a little further from the top of a ridge that the rocky outcropping and cliff seemed to run up to. He decided to go higher, walk along the ridge and head back to the trails and, eventually, his car.

As he he made his way heading up the ridge, over the shuffling of his feet and the other sounds of the woods, Joe heard a single noise that sounded like a piano key. A single high note coming from the woods.

He paused for a few moments, but the sound never returned.

He shrugged it off and continued up to the ridge.

As he approached the top, he turned and headed into the woods again. ‘It’s only mid afternoon and I still have plenty of time before dark,’ he thought to himself.

It was just as he entered the tree line into the rustling leaves, that Joe  heard another musical note. This one was lower than the first. It repeated several times before only the sounds of the wind in the trees returned..

Joe turned around several times listening for the sound to return and to try to get a bearing on where it was coming from. “Once? I’m imagining. Twice? I could be hallucinating.”

The music returned. A few ethereal notes played together floating gracefully and harmoniously through the trees. And then they stopped.

Joe locked in on the music and it was coming from straight ahead just over the rise. “It has to be coming from there.”

He limped and hurried as fast as his bruised and swollen foot would carry him.

Muted and rich deep sustained tones now carried on the wind drawing him ever closer to the source of the music.

But as Joe reached the crest of the ridge, he tripped and went tumbling head over heels down the other side hitting rocks and sticks along way down. Piles of leaves came sliding down with him as he skidded down the hillside. After what felt like forever to Joe, he came to a sudden and jarring halt as his his head hit the base of a tree with a sickening thud.

“SON OF A …. OWWWWWW!” he shouted face down into the leaves that had tumbled down the hill with him and under him.

Joe slowly rolled onto his side and managed to open his eyes to get his bearings as dizziness engulfed him and fire lanced across his chest from where, he knew, ribs had been broken.

Something warm and wet flowed down his forehead and into his right eye. He wiped his hand across his face and discovered it was now covered in blood.

Slowly sitting up, and as his vision cleared, Joe saw something that his brain wouldn’t let him believe was really there.

There, in the middle of the woods, in a very small clearing, was a grand piano. A squirrel sat on a few keys with a pecan in its paws. It gnawed on the nut and then tried to bash it against one of the keys making a repetitive plinking sound. The nut broke, and the squirrel shoved it in his mouth and leaped off the keys, landing on the lid, and scurrying across the back side finally leaping into and up a tree.

While Joe’s first thought was, ‘Oh, the squirrel was playing the music,’ his second thought – which should have been the first thought – was, ‘Why the hell is there a grand piano in the middle of the woods?!’

Dizzily, Joe struggled to his feet. He definitely bruised his back and side in several places, cracked his head, ribs (not broken, but hurt enough that it was hard to breathe), and discovered that his knee cap was also in considerable pain. But that was all overshadowed by the discovery of the piano.

Joe thought it was weird enough that the piano was there in the first place, but what was even more odd is that it looked nearly brand new with no weathering at all. There was no way anyone could have put it here. There were no trails. And although this was a clearing, the trees surrounding it would not have allowed for any kind of vehicle to bring it here, especially without leaving ruts or some kind of mark in the dirt.

‘I suppose a helicopter could have lowered it here,’ Joe said to himself looking up past the trees. But he shook his head as he realized the stupidity of the comment.

There was also a piano bench.

‘Why wouldn’t there be one?’

Joe hobbled over to the piano, a little scared, a little in wonder, and a little confused. He pulled the bench out and decided to lift the lid. There, inside, was a single piece of sheet music.

Joe picked it up and stared at it. The color drained from his face and he dropped the walking stick and grabbed the piano as if the world had started to shift beneath him.

He didn’t exactly sit on the piano bench, but rather fell onto it perfectly seated and still clutching the music in one hand and the piano with the other. His eyes never left the sheet music.

Slowly, he put the music on the stand, already propped up ready for the sheet to be placed there. Tears welled up in his eyes as he shakily placed his right hand on the piano keyboard, only remembering a few parts of music from his high school days, but enough to know a basic scale. In a steady rhythm, he looked at the first two notes, he recognized, were on the treble clef and an E on the scale. From there he ascended one key to F and then G. Repeating G, then down to F, then E, then D and finally landing on C twice before progressing back up to D, E and repeating E but holding a slight bit longer before briefly hitting the D key and then hitting it again.

Joe leaned back holding the last note for a moment before letting go of the note and staring a the keyboard for several minutes.

He looked around the woods, but no one was there. Not even the squirrel that had been there earlier was still around.

Joe looked back at the sheet music.

It was Beethoven’s piece, Ode to Joy.

The Melody

Joe sat staring at the sheet music for a very, very long time. So long, in fact, that the sun had started to set. And yet, Joe sat staring.

“I’m dreaming. This is a dream,” was a recurring thought that was accompanied by a numbness that felt akin to being drunk, stoned, or otherwise isolated from all outside thought other than what was right in front of a person.

Finally, Joe stood as if in a trance.

He gathered wood, cleared a space near the piano, and started a fire in a ring of stones he had painfully moved to the clearing. He unpacked his tent and set it up, hammering in anchor pegs, and unrolled his thermal sleeping bag. From time to time, he would stop, turn, and stare at the piano and the sheet music that never moved, even though a breeze would kick up from time to time strong enough to move leaves on the ground. But the sheet music never fluttered.

Night fell and Joe cooked food on the fire, constantly staring at the piano and the music. The fire illuminated and danced across the finely polished surface of the piano’s housing.

As the darkness of the forest enveloped his campsite, Joe slowly retired to the tent for the night, his eyes never wandering too far from the oddity that lay before him. His mind never wandered either. Nor did it wonder. It simply fixated on the music of Beethoven and the piano that existed where it should not.

The wind had died down and the only sound was the crackling of the fire.

As Joe slipped into slumber, he realized he no longer felt the pain he had in his body. The emotional pain was gone as well. There, in the silence and tranquility of the forest, something seen and unseen was moving about him. He didn’t understand why. Just that it was.

While the fire kept Joe warm, he dreamed of his wife and of Joy. Of days in the park. Of days of conflict. Of days of laughter. Of days of sadness. He dreamed of how he and his wife had come together and created this being of light who never got to shine, and yet affected them so deeply and forever.

Finally, Joe dreamed of standing on the cliff that he had slept upon the day before. Joy was by his side holding his hand. She appeared to be a young girl of ten. He could remember all ten years of their time together. And none of it.

He looked down as she looked up at him, smiling taking his hand.

“You didn’t lose me, daddy. I’ll be with you forever. Besides, I would have tortured you as a teenager.”

“You would have been perfect,” Joe said to her. She smiled.

“I have to go. It will be okay.”

“I know. But it’s hard.”

“You’ll know when it’s easy because of this moment,” she squeezed his hand.

“I know.”

Joy turned to Joe and he lifted her into his arms and hugged her hard in an embrace that he hoped he would never forget. An embrace of warmth, connection, and love.

She kissed him on the cheek and said, “I love you, daddy.”

“I love you too. You have fun, okay? Maybe I’ll see you again someday,” Joe said to her as he set her down.

“You will.”

Joy smiled and started skipping and dancing away. The wind picked up and it appeared to take her away and she dissolved into the sky as Joe watched.

Joe woke at peace, but still sad.

He slowly sat up, sore, bruised, battered, and yet, a feeling of acceptance. He was, by no means, over his loss. But the visions, dreams and strange occurrence in the forest gave him some peace.

As he opened his tent, he was not at all surprised that the piano, bench and music were gone from the clearing. No sign of it existed. Not even an indention in the ground. He accepted the experience as it was without any question.

Joe slowly packed up his campsite, strapped it all on his back, grabbed his walking stick, took a last look at the clearing, turned away, and headed home.

The Prophet

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet,
excerpt from On Joy and Sorrow

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises
was often times filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,
the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find
it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver,
needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Author’s Note

I love stories with a twist. And I also love finding weird occurrences in the world. This story was inspired by a news article in 2008 about a woman in Harwich, Massachusetts who came across a new piano fully tuned in the woods while on a trail and no idea how it got there.

But a weird news story is not a story. You have to have a human connection. Someone to travel with to experience the strange event. And it has to have some meaning or why make a story.

I wrote this story shortly after a series of losses that occurred closely together. Loosing both uncles on each side of my family (my dad’s brother and my mom’s brother) in the same year was more difficult than I care to admit. My mother died nearly twenty years ago. A member of our spiritual community also died in an accident. It brought up lots of memories.

I used the words of Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet in my own mother’s eulogy and have gone back to the text many times.

The point of the story, of course, is loss and hope and how part of our existence is filled with duality and extremes. I hope you all realize that even the worst experiences in life give us the contrast for the best experiences that life has to offer.

Ode to Joy

If you’re not familiar with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, here is a magnificent flash mob that builds and builds and builds. I like that this version is triggered when a little girl throws a few coins into a hat and stands there and watches the whole performance completely transfixed, but disappears at the final crescendo and final notes.

She also appears to be about 10 years old.


© 2017 Eric Huber. The Piano is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Photo from photographer Ryan Holloway of