“A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realization that you can’t make old friends.”― Christopher Hitchens
Monday mornings and I have never managed to come to any sort of rapprochement. Mondays are not the sort of day one looks forward to for obvious reasons but some are far worse than others. For me, this last Monday was one of the more terrible ones. I was greeted with the news that an old friend had finally lost his ten year battle with cancer. The news from the week prior was not good but we all expected him to make a recovery as he had many times previously. Fate, it seems, had other intentions for our friend this time.
In this day of social media news spreads quickly. Well wishes and condolences started to stream in. I found myself on the phone with mutual friends who I hadn’t spoken with in years. I’ve always thought it a shame that that the only time we call or reach out to each other these days is when someone we know passes away. It was good to hear their voices as it reminded each of us of a time when our friend was still there, laughing one more time about the adventures of our youth and the coming of age experiences we shared. As we talked and the conversations moved to what was now the all consuming event in our lives, the death of our friend, we seemed to part ways in spirit. They took great consolation believing that the spirit of my friend ‘lived on’ in heaven and would be watching over those of us who were still dwelling in the land of the living. It was if they were talking about color to a blind man.
I’m a naturalist so I don’t have a belief in the supernatural which includes a place where the departed spirits go after this life is over. All we have, in my view, is our brief time together while we are alive in this world. I take consolation in the fact that my friend left a large body of work for us to enjoy and the memories I have of the times and experiences we shared. I find it especially rewarding that I can look up at a sky full of stars and remember the many times we spent gazing through my telescope and waxing philosophical about life, the universe and everything, to quote Douglas Adams. These memories also create a sense of urgency in me to take out the telescope when I might not feel like it, to pack up the bass and head out to that Blues Jam when I would rather stay home and to sit down and write that article when all I’d rather do is surf Facebook. We all have a limited time to do the things we want to do; some of us have more than others as life so often brutally reminds us. Eventually the silence of the grave will overtake us all and our voices will be extinguished. But while we are alive our voices ring out loud and clear. Now is the time to be heard, now is the time to make music and dance. May the life of my friend and all he accomplished constantly keep this fire alive in me; I can’t think of a better way to honor his memory until that eternal silence overtakes me.