News From the Front

Thoughts on People Who Sail Away

04 Jan 2015

I wrote this a few months ago, when I heard the news that a friend was terminally ill. I guess at the time I was a little superstitious and didn't want to publish it.

I just heard that she passed away. As the person who told me said, "we just need to appreciate our friends, forgive a little easier, hug a little harder". Yes, all of those things.

Anyway, here it is:

I just heard from a friend tonight who has a terminal disease. Seems like we are always saying goodbye to people. So many, so many. All I can think about is how they leave and we get left behind on the dock, feebly waving goodbye, remembering them as they were in the moments before we cast off their lines. I guess that sounds pretty selfish. What about them? In their last days or months they must wonder if their life has made sense, if there are things they wanted to do or see or say or learn or feel.

I don't think it's about any of those things. I think it's just about people. It's about you and I. It's about how much we love them today, what we did for them today, how we made sure they know how grateful we are that they are a part of our lives, today. It seems to me that all the stuff about bucket lists, life reruns and last goodbyes are meaningless when you are looking down the tunnel of the last few months of your life. It seems to me that the most important thing is, and will always be, what it happening right now. Who you are, what you are, now. The best, and only thing we can do, in my opinion, is to love and live now, with no regrets, no apologies. I think it isn't about your scorecard at the end, it's about how much you loved, how much you lived, and how true you were to yourself and those you love.

I feel blessed that there are so many wonderful people in my life. They all have their skills, their personalities, and their quirks. Each life is a story unfolding before our eyes, each a house of cards built on the foundation of cards that were dealt in the past. We are a product of our own past lives, but the things that happened before are just echoes heard off the canyon wall of the present. Each life is a continual procession of "what have you done for me lately?" quizzes. All the past can do is maybe give us a little context, a little muscle memory to encourage the knee-jerk of today.

As for those who have left us behind on the dock, I often feel the need to keep them in a sort of memory safe, protected from forgetting by a thick door and an imaginary combination lock. How stupid. What's the point of a story if it can't be told and re-told? That's the responsibility of the people left on the dock, waving as those we love sail away. It's our job to keep telling their story, so that it mixes with the stories of others who have also sailed away, and ultimately becomes the foundation for someone else's house of cards.

We honor those who have left us on the dock by living our own lives, by being present every second, making their stories part of our stories, and part of the foundation of our own house of cards.