I was 28 when we met.
You were six years older. It was my first real job out of college, and we connected immediately.
You welcomed me. We smiled and laughed a lot. We talked and shared and danced, and enjoyed each other’s company. I was part of your group, which really mattered at that moment in my life. I was drawn to your energy and enthusiasm for life.
Over the years, we grew apart. We didn’t always agree about our approaches to jobs and friends—life in general. Yet, you had been an essential part of my relatively young life.
It’s been years since we’ve talked—far longer than the moments that brought us together. I’ve thought about you here and there when I reminisce about the beginning of my adult life.
Recently, one of my close friends (our once shared coworker) reached out to me with the news that you died.
We hadn’t talked in years, for so many different reasons, but I was without words.
How could someone so youthful, so lively, so full of energy, be gone? I struggled (still struggle) to understand.
You weren’t that much older than me. And no one expected it. At least not the mutual friends I am still connected with. They were just as shocked and speechless as I was.
We’ve since learned how private you were, about what mattered, or what was most painful. So many of us had no idea. We didn’t know you had been battling for years, smiling through the pain, hiding the truth.
Why can’t I get you off my mind? Is it because of our history? Is it because you were close to my age? Is it because I simply cannot imagine leaving this world? I can’t imagine while my children are still children. I simply cannot picture a future where they don’t have me and vice versa.
Or, is it because I have this vision of my future self with my husband where we are reaping the fruits of our labors and spending our boys’ inheritance, which I truly hope to do?
Neither of which you were destined to know.
Why can’t I get you off my mind?
We hadn’t spoken in years. We didn’t see eye to eye. We often disagreed.
Yet, you were my coworker, my peer, my friend. You made me laugh and smile. You made me happy and sad and frustrated. You are a part of my story. And you are gone.
And you weren’t that much older than me. And, in my mind, I’m far, far from the end.
Yet, you are just another piece of evidence that none of this—this life, these people, a future—is guaranteed. And no matter how much we laugh and smile and make people happy, or infuriate and frustrate and piss them off, however much joy or pain we may cause, none of it is guaranteed to continue.
None of our time is promised. We have no real reason to believe that the future we believe in will ever become a reality. The “nothing is guaranteed” cliche is so utterly, painfully, true.
It’s also the truth that each person that crosses our path becomes part of our life story, no matter the length of their stay. There are many whom I wish were still a part of my life. There are some I know were only meant to be for a moment in my lifetime. I still hold them close as part of my story.
You are gone, and you leave behind a husband, brother, sister-in-law, niece, friends, and others who love you. And who you loved. I have to imagine that they are in disbelief that you are gone. The future they pictured (that you were in) has been dramatically altered.
Life means loss. We live and love and build connections that we have no guarantee will last. However, at that moment, it’s all that matters. We cannot guarantee our future, so we try to live in the present. But not really.
It seems it’s not until the moment is gone that we realize how much we should have cherished it.
And I’m not ready. I’m not ready to say goodbye to acquaintances, friends, family, neighbors, and even people we only know at a distance.
You’ve been on my mind constantly, and it’s been weird and unsettling and something I’ve yet to understand.
I haven’t spoken to you in years.
I don’t know that you’ve even thought of me in as long.
Yet, I am still struggling. Not in the same way that others are probably struggling over your loss. It’s in the way that someone who once knew you—and has never forgotten you, and far too often wonders what the future holds—struggles with when they hear someone like you is gone.
And while we did not remain a part of each other’s lives, you made an imprint on my life that has never been erased. I’m thankful for that. I hope that I can use this brutal reminder of life’s uncertainty to squeeze the most out of each moment that is left to me.
And I can only hope that when I’m gone, I will be remembered.
Not only by my husband and children and family and still close friends, but that somewhere along the way, when I didn’t even realize the connection that was being made, someone else remembers me.
Maybe it’s the students I taught for 17 years. They made such a remarkable difference in my life. Maybe it’s that friend who lived in the same apartment building as me many years ago who made everything fun, happy, and carefree.
Maybe it’s my first real friend from my first real job out of college. The one who I connected with immediately, but our lives took different paths. I see her and her family, but only from a distance.
If I were to die tomorrow, I wonder who, beyond my husband, sons, parents, sisters, and extended family, would really care?
Beyond hearing about my death, who would care?
Beyond extending their condolences, who would care?
Beyond a few moments of sadness and memories, who would really care?
And, as I write this, I wonder what difference have I made? Why would people miss me? What have I done to matter?
And, most importantly, because I’m still here, what can I do to mold the future? What is the lasting impression that I wish to leave?
So, I think of you and the role you played in my life.
We are all made of moments—people laughing and crying, and wondering about the unknown.
And, while I have no real idea of what my future holds, or when I will leave this body, or what impact I may have made, I can only hope that someone, many someones, will remember me.
I remember you.