So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight

The story of life is quicker than the blink of an eye, the story of love is hello, goodbye.   –              Jimi Hendrix

A buddy of mine used to do something kind of quirky. A group of us would be out & about at a local watering hole and at some point we’d realize that he had just disappeared. He wouldn’t say goodbye and never let anyone know when he was leaving. It was just his thing. I never asked him why.

My sister’s former mother-in-law has a similar habit. If you happen to be talking to her on the phone and the conversation concludes she just hangs up. She doesn’t say goodbye.

Seven years ago on a Saturday in April I went to work at the establishment where I’d been employed for six years. I knew I was sick that day, but what I didn’t know was that when I left I would never be returning. I never got a chance to say goodbye to several people who I’d spent many many hours with and to this day there are lots of them who I’ve never seen again.

Sometimes late at night I look at my Facebook and shed a tear or two. Why?? There are, by my count, five people on my friends list that are no longer with us.

There is Teresa B., who I knew from junior high & high school and also worked with for several years about a decade ago, and Matt G., a guy I worked with back in the mid-90’s. Teresa & I didn’t run in the same circles and she battled things that I can’t relate to, but deep down she was good people.

Matt G. was one of those people one only knows for a very brief moment in time but leaves an indelible impression. He was a class clown type and always made me laugh at work. Both Teresa & Matt were in their 30’s and it makes me sad that they didn’t get to stick around a lot longer.

Johnna H. was a young lady that grew up in my community. She’d come to church occasionally when she was a little girl, and for a couple of years back in the late 90’s she was a member of the youth group that I helped lead. She was merely in her 20’s when she passed, a victim of the same battle that so many young people wage unsuccessfully in this country nowadays.

Last January it was thru Facebook that I learned of the sudden passing of Marc C., who I’d listened to on the radio when I was a little boy when he was a DJ and then had the privilege to talk with occasionally when we worked at the same place about ten years ago. Marc was smart…the kind of guy who would have probably won a ton of cash on Jeopardy. He was also a very talented musician who played trumpet & guitar at various local places. After we both left for greener pastures I’d still bump into him sometimes. Marc was that guy…the type who seems to be everywhere and one never knew when he might pop up and unexpectedly but quite pleasantly improve the day with a brief yet insightful conversation about something marginally esoteric. The realization that I won’t ever have the privilege of learning something from him again leaves me feeling sort of blue and I wish I’d had the opportunity to spend more time with Marc over the years.

And finally there is my friend Wink, who was my minister’s wife and whom I had the pleasure of knowing for two decades. I have often spoke here at The Manofesto about my desire for a genuine Christian experience and my deep longing to be an authentic follower of Christ rather than someone who just attends church. In the course of those laments I may have mentioned that though it may be hard to explain I know what I am looking for because I have seen it. I have been blessed to have been given probably half dozen or so excellent examples of this authenticity, and Wink was one of those. Her loss has been especially difficult because I have seen the effect it has had on our church in general and her loved ones specifically.

At any rate, I still go to all of these Facebook pages occasionally. I don’t know exactly why, and I don’t really enjoy the way it makes me feel, but I still do it.

A few days ago I attended the board of directors meeting of our local literacy organization where we held an election of new officers. The gentleman who has been president for the past 4 years is stepping down, but I had assumed that he would still be serving on the board and attending all of our events. Not so. He said that after 15 years he is going to step away and get into some other pursuits. Obviously he isn’t dead, but it still kind of made me a bit sad knowing that he will no longer be involved & around.

Earlier this week…via the aforementioned Facebook…I learned of the passing of my college pal Emily. Were Emily & I close friends?? Not especially. I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in nearly two decades. But for a short season all those years ago she & I ran in the same circle and did a lot of…socializing…together. I think she may have even once been my date to a fraternity formal (the memories of that time in my life are understandably fuzzy). Emily was tough yet bubbly, street smart yet understatedly sensitive. She was married with a couple of children, had a job she liked as a teacher, and to my understanding was happy. And now she is gone before she even reached the age of 40.

Faithful citizens of the Manoverse will recall that I lost my own mother 13 years ago. I have written previously about how I wish I could have just one more conversation with her and tell her all the things I never took the opportunity to say when she was alive. I don’t remember the last thing I said to my Mom and to this day that fact haunts me more than I can coherently communicate.

In the 1946 classic It’s A Wonderful Life (my all-time favorite Christmas film and #4 on my Favorite Movies List) the angel Clarence Oddbody (AS2) tells George Bailey that “each person’s life touches so many other lives that when they aren’t around it leaves an awful hole”. In 1989’s Field of Dreams (#3 on the Favorite Movies List) Doc Graham laments that “we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening.” I would like to take this opportunity to encourage each of you to try to recognize these moments and understand how people touch your lives and how you play a role in their lives. Take your time. Be generous with hugs & affection. Tell people “thank you”. Always have your camera. Say goodbye or don’t say it…whatever you prefer. Just understand that there is no guarantee that there’ll be a next time. Laugh. Enjoy. Appreciate. Be thankful. We only get one shot at this life.

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