I must admit, I have found it almost laborious to write these past two or so months. I painstakingly think of things to write about only to remember that I’ve already done so. I am then forced to reflect upon the general tone of my pieces. By now I’m sure you all have a fairly accurate perception of me. I’ve addressed issues very personal to me. These have included weight, depression, family, Apple and even politics. Today I revisit a topic that, over the past few days, has been in the forefront of my mind. Mortality.
For me, some of the best years of my life were those spent in high school. I realize that not everyone can say this but high school was the most magical. It was the time in my life where I most felt like the best of times were ahead of me. High school felt like a renaissance. I was no longer a child, I was growing into an adult. I experienced many adult-like things for the first time and I was also young enough to enjoy the many learning opportunities that are unique to the high school experience. I lettered in drama and MCJROTC. I excelled in virtually everything I attempted. And like so many others, I naively believed that my childhood friends would be with me for the rest of my life.
Within a year of graduating, my friends and I were scattered across the state at different colleges and what seemed like the unbreakable bond of friendships that were made several years before had dissipated. Now I wish I were more like my brother. He is still close to the friends he made in his childhood while I’m now among the long list of Facebook friends and Twitter followers of the people who once meant the world to me. I’m now an acquaintance with so many memories and treasured moments of a life that is now over a decade behind me. That distance, I know, will only grow. So much has changed. The bonds that once held us all together seem only to matter in the past.
I’ve had some very wonderful friends over the years. However, for the most part, our closeness is only for a defined period of time. Sure, we’re connected through Facebook but gone are the long conversations, the special looks and even the time spent in each others’ presence. I remember with overwhelming fondness my core friends in high school “The Gang.” We were an eclectic bunch. Ben, Andrew, Myke, Brian, Jojo, Tiffany, Jennifer, Jamie, Lisa and me. The one common thread is that all of us attended middle school together and all took part in drama club. Outside of that main group we had close friends that were in other activities we took part in. Though sometimes sharing common friends the inner circle was mutually exclusive.
A friendship in my ROTC clique was with that of my friend, Lang. We were two peas in a pod. She was headstrong and independent. Along with Julie we were number one two and three in the ROTC chain of command. We were both the same age and she was to have been the maid of honor when I’d first married in 2000. Who knows why things happen as they do but things in her life dramatically changed during that period and two weeks before my wedding I couldn’t reach her. Years passed but I never forgot her. We never were able to reconnect. What makes it even more sad is that I found out just a few days ago that she died. Lang and her daughter drowned last month. She was 32.
In 2007 I learned that one of my high school sweethearts had passed away in a motorcycle accident while on duty as a police officer. Just I had done when he passed I have spent the past few days thinking about my life. My mind forces me to think back on the times I’d spent with them and how impossible it still seems that they’d already be gone from this earth. I know that we all grow older and that in time, we all die. I suppose that I am still naive in a number of ways, thinking that death isn’t supposed to be a part of life.
Life isn’t fair. No one can explain why some people’s lives are so blessed, why some are so short and why we must grieve as we do. In both cases years had passed but in learning of their deaths it was as if we were all back in high school. It was as if going to home room and hearing on the PA system that they would never return. Years may have passed but it was still as if it were only yesterday.
Everyone is now grown. Many have been married, divorced, remarried, had children, moved away. But in my mind’s eye, everyone is still they’re the same as we’d been all those years ago. Do we ever get used to the inevitability of life? We see ourself growing older, our hair changing color and thinning, the calendar rolling over to another year all too soon. How do we embrace a life that is drawing to an end even as it begins? How do we make the moments truly count? Our life is defined by the people we touch, those who remember us. But no matter how long or short a time we have, our lives and relationships matter. As the saying goes, never put off until tomorrow what can be done today. Be sure that the people you care about know that you do because it’s those who are left behind that will honor your memory.
It can all be summed up in the lyrics of the famous British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac’s, Don’t Stop. “If you wake up and don’t want to smile, if it takes just a little while, open your eyes and look at the day, you’ll see things in a different way.” Indeed, “yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.”
This article appeared on page 5A in the 6/12/13 issue of The Union-Recorder. The article appeared under the title, Pondering the Meaning of Life.