This week, I'm talking about those who move through our lives as molecules of a fluid move around each other in a solution, touching, sometimes lingering, and then moving on, diffusing to the farthest corners of the Container. And as we encounter these people, we affect each other, even for just that briefest of golden moments. Sometimes that moment lasts, and that other molecule becomes an acquaintance, a friend, or even more intimate. And then, one day, everything changes.
I had a friend in kindergarten and first grade, named Pam. Pam and I hung out, we walked together to and from school, we played on the playground together, and we were best friends.
You might even say (though a six-year-old boy would never admit this) that she was my first love. One day, we were just strolling home from school, I lost in thought about some great adventure, she talking on about whatever occupied her at the moment, and I never noticed that somehow we'd walked right past her house, and she was already up the steps and gone. Oddly enough, that was the last time I saw her. She wasn't in school the next day, or the day after that. And when I went to her house, no one was home. Pam's shadow lingered in my heart for years afterward. I never got to say goodbye.
In High school, I had a group of friends. I call them friends because of the level of camaraderie we established as a group. It was one particular class, Stage Tech. I'd been a misfit through most of my school years, not finding any group with which I could identify. And in my junior year, failing Advanced Algebra, my counselor suggested Stage Tech class. We were the people responsible for every production at the school. We built sets for the musicals and dramas, set and ran lights and sound for the band and choir shows, learned makeup techniques (Curse you, Maybelline, for discontinuing Tan Number Two base!).
Anyway, I walk into the school auditorium, and there's this band of misfits like me. We weren't the lead actors (though eventually I did take a lead role in Teahouse of the August Moon), we were the "behind the scenes" people who nobody saw, and we liked it that way. It was the two-dozen-or-so of us against the entire world, and we were determined to leave our marks on it. And we did, along the catwalk above the auditorium, on the light booth walls, and in the "student lounge," a secret corner of La Porte High School of which only a select few are aware of its very existence. We were quirky together, we were misfits together, and were brilliant together.
And after graduation, we never saw each other again.
And those instances don't take into account all the other molecules that flowed through my life over the years. My first real girlfriend when I was a teenager, Mary Ann. Missy, the Frick to my Frack who almost became my first lead singer (she was a HUGE fan off Robert Plant). Dave and Jon, two buddies from my Air Force days, who saw me through some of the toughest times in my life.
And then, molecules part. Some drift away. Some conflict. Some move away. Some just...disappear. And we never have another chance to tell them what they mean to us, how much we love them, or even to say how terribly sorry we are about...that.
That is the worst part about goodbyes. That is a word or an action that causes damage. And to leave someone damaged is the worst thing a person can do. I know. I've left some damaged people in my wake, much to my shame. And my punishment for that is to live with knowing each heart is precious, and to have done or said that, and not be able to fix it.
My heart aches with each life I've left behind, every heart that has touched me, and every heart I've touched. I may never again see them, and I miss them all. But I can't live my life in regret, either. The best I can do every time the ache rises, every time I think of them, is to remember what good came of our time together, and to pray for their well-being and prosperity.
It doesn't make m miss them any less. But I hope that wherever they are, if they remember me, that they might do the same thing.
That makes it a little better.
It also reminds me that with each new relationship, each new person I touch, however briefly, our echoes live on long after we leave each other. It makes me more conscious of how I treat them in the Golden Moment of our interaction.
Maybe if we all were more aware of that, we'd scream a little less and start getting along.