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10 Years, Old Friends and a Woman I Never Met

January 27, 2005

I saw a beautiful young woman last night. I didn’t know her. She was dead.

I had received an email from an old friend two days before. It was a funeral announcement for the young woman. Because I could not remember ever meeting her I at first wondered why he had included me on the distribution list. But when I read the announcement carefully I saw it. She has been engaged to marry my best friend from high school. I knew I had to go.

I realized with some amazement and shame that I haven’t spoken to my old best friend in ten years. A current friend asked me why. What could I say? I started a family and he didn’t; I stopped hanging around the same places; our lives took different paths. So although we lived in the same city we didn’t keep up. Next thing you know it’s ten years later. Just like that.

And now here I was looking down at the woman who was lying disturbingly still in the funeral home where the service was held. And I didn’t know her. The man who used to be my best friend had met, fallen in love with, planned to marry, and now lost her all without me even knowing she existed. Thus not only was her early death a startling and tragic reminder of my own mortality, but it also spoke to me of how fast life goes by and how easy it is to let people slip out of your life unnoticed.

I didn’t have much time to talk with my friend. I just hugged him and told him I loved and missed him. I also told him that I would call to invite him over for dinner soon. While I was there I ran into other old friends, too. I got to spend some time talking with them. It was like a strangely somber high school reunion of sorts, with so many faces I hadn’t seen in many years.

Old friends sometimes drift apart. Everyone knows that. That’s just the way life is. But I don’t believe it’s something that should happen without me knowing it. So I’m going to make good on my promise. I’m going to call my friend and invite him over for dinner. Maybe he’ll want to tell me about the woman. Maybe he won’t.

These kinds of experiences – the tragic death of a young person and also the sudden realization that ten years have come between me and a friend – remind me not to take life for granted. But if I’m honest with myself I have to admit that, after all the carpe diem existentialist bullshit, I’m going to take it for granted anyway. Because no matter how hard you try to hang on to life, to squeeze every drop of goodness out of it, in the end it slips on by, some of it wasted, some of it not. You do the best you can. That’s all any of us can do.

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  1. “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important” said the fox to the little prince…



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