Greg Carter add these notes as a comment to Alex Sabado’s obituary. I thought it appropriate to give his remarks a place on the main page.
Nearly every seat in the beautiful sanctuary at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church was filled on Saturday morning. Family, friend, classmates, scouts in uniform, BMX riders and more turned out to say goodbye to Alex.
Here is a remembrance by Greg Carter:
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run …”; Do you know that one? Do you recognize this line from Kipling? “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run …”
I had the good fortune a number of years ago to be a Den Leader for a group of Cub Scouts. Alex was one of those scouts. After spending time with those boys in different activities over several years, you get to know a little something about each one. One thing I knew about Alex – he preferred to wear his shoes untied.
“Alex, your shoes are untied.”
“I know Mr. Carter. That’s the way I like to wear them,” he said.
“Oh! So, if I see you with your pants unzipped, then I should assume that’s how you like to wear your pants?”
“Nooo, Mr. Carter!” he giggled at me with that twinkle in his eye. He had a twinkle in his eye, you know. I’m sure you’ve seen it. Of course, I never told him that. He would have been mortified … just as any self-respecting 9 year old boy would have been.
“OK. I’m just making sure I’ve got it right. You know us geezers don’t know too much about such things.”
“I know, Mr. Carter.” But I caught him again at the next meeting.
“Alex, your shoes are untied.”
“I knoooow Mr. Carter. That’s the way I like to wear them.” in a sing-song, hint of aggravation voice. Then he turned … and checked his zipper.
Those of you familiar with Cub Scouts will know what I am talking about when I mention Cub Mobile races. Those not familiar with Cub Scouts might think of Pinewood Derby. They are not the same thing. In Pinewood Derby the boys carve cars out of a 6-inch block of wood. In Cub Mobile, the cars are big enough for the boys to ride in – gravity powered. Now, I’ve only been to three or four Cub Mobile races, but I would be surprised to find that there is another Cub Mobile race track in the world that ever saw a car as original and imaginative as the ones produced by Alex and his Dad. The creativity and workmanship demonstrated by the two of them working together was simply amazing. I have pictures to prove it.
But, perhaps the most indelible image I have of Alex is an image of him that I never actually saw myself. In fact, it’s a scene that took place well before I met him. I don’t recall how it came up in conversation, but while I was talking with his mother one day, she told me a story about Alex when he was a toddler – about 3 or 4, I think. They were visiting Julia’s folks (in the “old country”) and one day happened to be near a field of blueberries just as the blueberries were in season. Little Alex toddled out into this field, found a spot where he could sit, and in any direction he put out his hand, it would come back full of blueberries.
Blue hands. Streams of blue juice running down his arms and dripping off his elbows. Blue mouth and cheeks. Brown hair with a bluish tinge. Blue juice dripping off his chin and onto his shirt. He was as happy and as content as a child could be. His mother noted that even years later, Alex still recalled sitting in that blueberry field, enjoying those blueberries.
In the last year of Cub Scouting I gave the boys a challenge. It was not directly related to Scouting – just a challenge from me to them. I gave them each a copy of Kipling’s poem “If …”. The challenge was to be able to recite the poem to me from memory and when I stopped them and asked a question about it, they would have to answer in their own words. If they could do that, I would treat them and their parents to supper at the restaurant of their choice. There was immediate excitement of having supper in New York or Washington or London even. So I had to narrow the scope. Recite the poem and answer the question about it and I would treat them and their parents to supper at the restaurant of their choice … anywhere between Fort Collins and Boulder. Well, they were all still excited and quite sure that they would be having supper at my expense before their final year in Cub Scouting ended.
Of the eight or nine boys in the Den, I figured that there were two, maybe three, that would actually take me up on that challenge. Alex was one of those two or three. He seemed to me to be self-motivated, competitive and always up to a challenge. So, I had to be prepared and come up with a question about the poem. As I read through the poem myself, one line stuck with me … that one I mentioned earlier. “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run …” My question was, What is unforgiving about a minute? Why would the author refer to a minute as “unforgiving”? I was curious to know what a 10 year old boy would say in response to such a question.
As we grow older, I think it becomes clear why a minute is unforgiving. And when we have children of our own, it becomes crystal clear. A minute comes. It goes. And it never returns. You take your best shot at it when it’s there because once it’s gone you’ll never have the opportunity again. If you miss it, you’ve missed it forever. That’s what is unforgiving about a minute.
In the end, no one took me up on that challenge. I was a little disappointed but not surprised. After all, these were 10 year old boys. What do you expect?
As I think about it now, however, it seems to me that it did not matter whether Alex knew what was unforgiving about a minute. It did not matter because Alex filled his minutes. Even if it was only with 60 seconds worth of distance run, Alex filled his minutes. And in so doing, he has helped us fill our minutes. And, for all of us, he will continue to be an inspiring example in just this respect. “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run …”
I wish us all healthy, happy lives. And if I am lucky enough to live to a ripe old age myself, I hope I will maintain enough presence of mind to recognize an oncoming, unforgiving minute. And in that moment, recall a boy named Alex. And encouraged by his example, find the strength to rise to my feet … and run.