Eight years ago this summer, I lost another special friend who died young, Kathy P. She and Jim never met, but they shared something quite specific in common. They were not merely acquaintances of mine; they were on the short list of people who have been very close and important to me.
This is not a sad post. It isn’t about mourning over the passing of my two friends. Fact is, most of the mourning is long, long past. What’s left is something more subtle – loss. I didn’t know about loss until it happened to me.
The thing is, once someone dies, they’re gone. I’m not speaking in terms of the existence or non-existence of a soul, or whether the departed might still hear us, because regardless of one’s religious beliefs, dead is still gone. Life is for the living, and all that.
So in place of our friend, a loss, a negative space, has been put into our lives. I’ve learned this: that hole in our hearts will be filled by something. It’s the way we the living operate. For that reason, losing a friend can put us on the path to becoming a different person just as making a new friend can change us.
In the eight years since Kathy P. died, I think I can identify ways in which my path has shifted without her presence. In Jim’s case, I have my suspicions, but it’s still early. I won’t get into the specifics of how I might have changed – that might be too much navel-gazing for even my most indulgent readers. One important point here is that I don’t think this makes me a weak person. What I mean is that I don’t think being influenced by one’s friends is a sign of weakness. Rather, that’s the way it’s supposed to work for us. We humans are a social species. We evolved not merely as individuals, but as societies. It is right and proper for us to be connected to our friends, and for our friends to be connected to us.
So it’s true that there are times when I’ll think of Kathy or Jim and I’ll think, “I wish they could see me now.” Yet it’s also true that if they were still here, I wouldn’t be precisely who I am now. If there’s any moral to this story, I suppose it would be this: Treasure every moment with your loved ones, because every one of those moments is your unique possession. No do-overs and no reruns. And to me, that’s a happy thought. It makes every day a vital part of life’s journey.