Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Day After
It’s fascinating and a little frightening how fast life moves on.
I was at my buddy Joe’s funeral last night. Joe Smith. It was kind of intimidating. It just wasn’t right. He was too young to be resting in a casket. I kept wondering: if we had known twenty-five or thirty years ago that he would be gone at this time, what would have changed? Anything? If you knew that you weren’t going to make it into old age, that two years from now or five years from now or twenty that you would be gone from here, if you KNEW, then what would change about how you are living life right now?
Ignorance is bliss.
Apparently, Joe’s heart stopped working, which is amazingly ironic because he was all heart. It’s the last thing I thought would ever go bad in him. It was painful to look at him. Joe’s eighty-eight year old mother took me by the hand and we faced him together. He had a grin on his face, which is unusual, but his mom liked it. So did I. It was fitting.
There were some friends from High School at the funeral that I hadn’t seen in almost 30 years. 30 YEARS!!! Pardon my French, but holy crap Batman! That’s like a lifetime all by itself. Even though it was a funeral, it was good to see them. It was like we hadn’t been apart at all. These people are wonderful. I could have talked all night with them without missing a beat. Only thing was, Joe wasn’t in on the conversations, and they would have been a lot funnier if he had been.
It’s a little sad that it took one of us dying to get us together, which is as much my fault as anyone’s because I’m so busy. I haven’t always been there for people like I wanted to because there’s just no time. My life is very full like everyone else’s seems to be. And even death didn’t draw all of us together. Some couldn’t make it to the funeral home, of course. Life gets in the way. High School was a long time ago. People have jobs and responsibilities, some people are too far away, and that’s that.
Every funeral I go to makes me think of this haunting line from a Jackson Browne song that I love called “Of Missing Persons.” A sentence from that song has been stuck in my head for decades and it won’t go away because it’s so true...
“Does it take a death to learn what a life is worth?”
Joe was an amazing person. They had pictures of him, like they usually do at funerals, and there he was, smiling with that big smile of his, through the windows of those photos. I had sat across from him, smiling at me, looking just like that, many times, back when Joe lived just a few blocks from another close friend who means the world to me. And these two were with me at a time in life when I was trying to figure out who and what I was. I don’t exactly know why we fell together in time the way we did, but I’m thankful for it, and I realize that they are both a part of the definition of who I am, along with other great friends who have no idea how important to me they are, even though I haven’t seen some of them for years. We simply ended up separated by the geography and expectations of life. I’m not bitter about it, that’s just how it goes, but it makes you wish there was a little more time here to keep things going. And it makes you want to reconnect with people that you have lost contact with. But that’s easier said than done.
When I was working on my undergraduate and then my master’s degrees I lost touch with practically everyone I had known prior to that. Not good, but there is nothing I could do about it. The demands were very heavy. And then we had kids and I launched into a whole different direction job wise with the church, and then suddenly 30 years is past and your hair is going grey and you find yourself wondering where the time went.
Honestly, right now, I feel like going away somewhere quiet where there are no expectations. I feel like I need time away to assess and figure things out. But that’s not going to happen. We don’t always get to do what we feel we need to do. So I will forge ahead and pray and try to figure out what God wants and what the people around me need so I can love them like I should.
What else can you do?
Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2010