Whenever it wants, the past can come kicking the door down. And you never know where it's going to take you. All you can do is hope it's a place you want to go.
Stephen King- Hearts in Atlantis
Harry: [about Auld Lang Syne] What
does this song mean? My whole life, I don't know what this song means. I mean,
'Should old acquaintance be forgot'? Does that mean that we should forget old
acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should
remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?
Sally: Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot
them or something. Anyway, it's about old friends.
When Harry Met Sally
When we were about 20 or so, three good friends and I had a band. We’d get together, have a few (more?) beers, and crank up our favourite music.
The only catch was, none of us could actually play an instrument. Or really sing.
No, this band was more of the air guitar variety, but still, we ended up playing our various “instruments” nearly every time we got together. One of our favorite jams was “Touch of Grey” by the Grateful Dead.
There were four of us back then, although others would drop in from time to time. Mostly we would perform this silly ritual long after the party had ended, the guests had left (or passed out) and we were the last men standing.
It’s funny to think back on those days now. How young we were. How full of promise.
Today the last of those three guys passed away. His name was Dirk, and he was one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Here is Dirk.
Here is Sam.
And here is Chad.
Thinking about them all being gone now hit me with a tidal wave of both grief and nostalgia. It seems like only yesterday we were goofing around drinking cheap beer and pretending brooms and mops were guitars.
A number of questions flooded into my head as I heard the news.
How could they all be gone now?? We’re still in our 40’s! We get more time than this!
Why did I lose touch with these guys? We were all such good friends.
What am I going to do to make sure I stay in better touch with my friends?
What am I going to do with the rest of my own time?
In thinking about these questions, I realized I have come back to some version of them over and over again in my life. I often find myself going back to an article I read called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying," written by a hospice nurse about themes she heard over and over from people at the end of their lives.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
I need to read that more often. Really take it into my heart and integrate it into my philosophy of the world. Friends aren’t just hypothetical entities we can pick up with whenever we get around to it. They are living, mortal beings with a finite amount of time left on this earth.
And I’ve learned the hard way, that sometimes this time runs out before we think it’s going to.
I’ve also learned that platitudes are of no real use to people. “Thoughts and prayers” don’t do a whole lot either. We’ve gotta pick up phones. Hop on planes. Stoke the coals. Even the best relationships need a little fresh oxygen once in a while.
But for me today, I’m gonna remember my three old bandmates and what they meant to me in that time in that place in that little corner of the world. Dirk was older than us. Someone we looked up to. An older brother of sorts who was fiercely loyal and protective of his tribe. He played the (fake) harmonica. When we were in High School we were on the wrestling team together. Our team sort of sucked, and Dirk as the heavyweight would often get onto the mat after all the rest of us had gotten our asses kicked.
On one such occasion, he had to fight this massive dude who was about twice his size. The guy hadn't lost all year, and their team was already smiling and laughing before the match even began.
But then I looked in Dirk’s eyes.
They were blazing red, and his determination was absolutely fierce. He saw the rest of us were demoralized, saw the other team disrespecting us, and something in him kind of snapped.
Dirk pinned that dude a few minutes later. When the referee pounded that mat, we all went a little crazy. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that.
But they didn’t know about Dirk’s heart.
So that’s the part of him I’ll remember today. High School wasn’t the greatest time for me. I was gangly and awkward and didn’t always have people looking out for me. But Dirk did. He was one of those guys. One of the ONLY one of those guys.
Plus he played a mean air harmonica.
So tonight I’ll go home, open a cheap beer, and listen to Touch of Grey as a tribute to an old friend.
But after that, I’m making a list of old friends who haven’t heard from me for a while. No more excuses. No more avoidance. No more too busy.
Friends are worth it. They keep us going. Make life worth living. They are our historians, our laughter, and our memory.
Cherish yours. They won’t be here forever.
Believe me, I know.
Rest in Peace Old Friend