Updated: Jun 26, 2020
| This is the 390th story of Our Life Logs |
I was born in 1980 and grew up in a small coastal town in Scotland. I was the oldest of three children and had a brother and sister. I had what should have been an idyllic childhood, playing on the beaches and forests that surrounded our home.
When I was just 11 years old, my best friends and I decided to meet for a game of football in the morning at a neighborhood lot. It was just another summer day during the school holidays, but I still remember it vividly—the warm air, the picking of teams, the shrieks of victory and defeat. Come lunchtime, the boys started to disperse and head home for lunch, one by one. Some of us agreed to meet again in the afternoon to carry on with the game.
When I got back from lunch, I realized that all the boys who lived two streets away were missing. Everyone who lived on my street was here. I briefly felt jealous that they were doing something without us. Maybe they had had a better offer.
Suddenly, I saw one of our friends sprinting towards the group. He was out of breath and talking quickly. He told us that our friend David had been hit by a car after running to chase after his dog. He said that David was laying on the road covered in blood and was being taken to hospital. The world seemed to speed up as I listened to the rest of the story.
I felt sick; David had been my best friend for the past eight years. We had met at nursery school and were always at each other’s houses, playing football, building go-karts, or watching movies. I sprinted to David’s house and watched the ambulance pull out of his driveway. Then I saw the blood, David’s blood, that was left behind. I thought back to the last conversation we’d had. What were the last things we had said to each other? I remembered David shouting ‘See you later’ as he’d ran off, chasing the other boys.
David died later that day.
I never really got over his death, and honestly, I didn’t really understand it. As a child, I didn’t get how my friend could just disappear from my life. For many years after the accident happened, I asked my parents questions. What happens to us when we die? Does heaven exist? Where did my friend go? They weren’t able to give me the answers I was looking for, and, as my family wasn’t religious, they discouraged me from talking about heaven, although, it gave me some comfort to think that my friend was in heaven. For the rest of my childhood, I thought of my friend, never letting his memory leave.
As life went on, I often still thought of my friend, carrying the same unanswered questions inside me. Because of my friend’s death, I was motivated to succeed; it was as if I had to live life for both of us.
When I was 16 years old, I left school and trained to be an electrician. I studied hard, got a good job and later started my own business. I worked so hard at my business that I often ended up with too much work and had to put in long hours. I was soon able to take on a couple of boys on apprenticeships to help with the workload, and eventually expanded my business to the nearest city, Glasgow, and took on more staff. Business was good. Really good. Unfortunately, life was not.
During this time, I started to gamble. My life often felt empty, and gambling made me feel very up and down. I played sports a lot, and I didn’t smoke or drink much, so I saw gambling as being my only vice. I would feel on top of the world when I was winning and would treat all my staff to drinks. It was an exciting feeling, watching a football game and hoping that my team would win. Sometimes I wouldn’t even watch the game, I would just check the score every now and again.
But then, I gambled with larger and larger sums of money, and when you do that, there are two outcomes. You either win more or lose more—and I lost more. Now, more than ever, I felt angry and depressed. Although my gambling habit seemed to be growing, I didn’t spend money unnecessarily in other ways. I had no financial problems. My business was doing well, and I worked hard. The only thing out of whack was my emotions, to which I held at bay.
I was addicted to trying to stockpile money. I started to buy shares and made a profit that way as well. I told myself that I was saving money “for a rainy day,” as I wanted to get married and start my own family—even if I wasn’t very good at relationships. Since the death of my friend, I had found it hard to get close to people. I didn’t want to feel the pain of losing them. Although I had had several casual relationships, I couldn’t seem to find a long-term girlfriend.
These feelings, as well as the gambling, continued for several years. I realized that I was a workaholic—and that it wasn’t healthy. I decided to take a bit of time off and left a member of my staff in charge who I trusted and went back to stay with my parents.
I didn’t expect to feel so much emotion visiting them. It had been 15 years since I had officially left home, only ever staying the odd night or two. This was the first time in years that I’d been home for a week. During this time, I felt a lot of emotions deeply. I remembered the day I lost my friend as I walked my parents’ dog around the edge of the football pitch where we had played that day. I realized that the grief was still there even though he had died over 20 years before.
Again, I started thinking the same questions. Why are we here? Why do we have to die? Where do we go when we die?
A few days later, some elderly Jehovah Witnesses knocked on my parent’s door. As I had grown up without any religion, I was reluctant at first to talk to the couple. Still, they offered me a book that discussed the big questions in life and contained answers from the Bible. Among the questions was, “What happens at death?” When I saw that, I reconsidered. I hoped it would at least give an answer to at least some of my questions. I told myself that I would read the chapter about death and that would be the end of it. Well, I ended up reading the whole book.
The book answered all of my questions about death, and for the first time in a long while, I felt that David was close by. I knew that he wouldn’t have wanted his death to have affected the rest of my life. The book also said that after death, we will be reunited with friends and family in heaven.
I then had a Bible study session with the Witnesses. I began to investigate how the prophecies could be applied to my own life. I saw that gambling encourages a lifestyle of materialism and greed and wanted to quit. I prayed that I would be able to stop gambling. At first, this was easier than I thought.
However, it was soon time to return to Glasgow, and I was back in my old routine. But upon reflection, I realized that gambling was just a habit, something I did when I felt restless or lonely. I thought of other ways to fill these moments. I would pray to God every time I felt like gambling, asking him to help me give it up. I also took up running as that helped to improve my mood. I started to look at other areas of my life that needed some improvements. I stopped swearing and gave up drinking.
Making these changes wasn’t always easy, but I started attending church and Christian meetings and made new friends. I knew that if I were going to stick with the changes I had made, I would have to stop seeing some of my old friends.
I continued to study the Bible on my own and altered my goals in life. I saw that I was able to save more money after I had stopped gambling, so I decided to give a proportion of that to charity each week. I still had the goal of finding a relationship and starting a family and knew that I could find a good wife in the church.
I soon got to know a lovely girl who helped me with my Bible studies. She had greater knowledge than me as she had been brought up with religion and loved God. She genuinely enjoyed helping people and what she taught me strengthened my faith in God further. I was baptized in 2013, and in 2015, I married that same girl, now my wife, in front of the same congregation of friends. I am so happy to have met my soulmate, and we are planning to have children in the near future. I have sidestepped my business slightly, handing over much of the management to an ambitious friend and colleague. I now spend as much time as possible with my wife, helping people where I can. I still enjoy being an electrician and have even volunteered my services for free to charities.
I used to get angry, but now I have calmed down and am more even-tempered. I am no longer worried about the future. I know that God has a plan for all of us and that whatever happens, I will be okay. Sometimes bad things happen and there’s no reasonable explanation. Maybe it was just David’s time to go, I don’t know why but I just have to accept it. In the past, I have felt afraid of death or afraid of losing loved ones. Through my religion, I am no longer scared of what will come next.
This is the story of Chris McKinnon
Chris McKinnon was born in Scotland in 1980. He had an idyllic childhood, running around in the countryside and playing on the beach. His main passion was football, and he would often play with his friends and neighbors. During his childhood, he suffered the grief of losing one of his best friends in a car accident. Chris grew up and became an electrician, but the death of his friend continued to affect him deeply. He started his own business and seemed to be doing well but was often lonely. He found healing and new faith through the Jehovah’s Witnesses who met him at his door.
This story first touched our hearts on May 1, 2019.
| Writer: Abi Latham | Editor: Colleen Walker |