Personal free time - the one resource that we can never have enough of, and is more valuable than any monetary unit could measure.
If I were to use my grandparents (both maternal and paternal) as a potential metric to determine how much time I have left on this mortal coil, I would not be blamed if I were to use A.D. 2043 as my likely expiration date. As this passage is being written on a late winter Sunday in 2011, that leaves me about 32 years of existence remaining between now and the end of my personal history.
The vast majority of my life to date has been encompassed with far more good than bad, and far more happy than sad. I've been responsible for bring in life to the world (directly and indirectly), participated in historic events of a global nature, and made the acquaintance of hundreds of people who have influenced my life as much as I have influenced theirs.
It has been a good run to date, and should that journey of mine be cut abruptly, I would still celebrate the time I had versus expressing emotions of rage and sadness for not being permitted more time on life's path.
One such adventure that I had along the way involved the meeting of a very remarkable couple who spent much of their time in Oklahoma City. While I could flippantly referred to the pair as "Beauty and the Beast," it would be more accurate to describe them as "Queen and her loving consort/King." They were happy, sappy, and very much in love with each other and with life itself. As I told the husband on more than one occasion, "You have truly won life's lottery with her willing love." He'd smile, and of course concur with those sentiments.
It has been more than a day now since my friend Rebecca Brown Ebey has been laid to rest. In the company of her loving spouse Travis, and a plethora of family and friends, she was given a final send off worthy of a cherished loved one. For all that were there, there were far many more who could not attend, myself being in the latter category. But while I was there in spirit, I'll bet anything that there are still people in Rebecca's extended circle of friends who have yet to know of her passing.
How could it be, one might ask?
Over the course of time, the lines of communication can be eroded, not always out of malice, but often by neglect. Daily matters of importance and urgency often drown out the quiet alerts to maintain those bonds forged over the course of days, weeks, months, and years. A childhood friend, a high school classmate, a college sweetheart, a co-worker past or present, and so on and so on, all contributed to the rich tapestry that is one's life. Experiences good and bad make up the summation of that dash between the day we are born and the day that we die.
Life happens, and it happens faster than we realize. A blink passes and we transition from diapers to Depends. Even for the well-meaning, time gets past us and overwhelms us before we can comprehend the full scale and measure of events as they unfold.
One of the biggest personal frustrations I face on a daily basis is effectively communicating to my friends and family past and present as to how much they meant and mean to me. Because of the time I have been on the planet, the amount of people to whom I would willingly acknowledge is far greater than the amount of free time that I have. Add to that the number of souls who would question my intent, misunderstand my motivations, or have otherwise closed the door to future communications (intentional and otherwise), and one can understand if I am a bit on wit's end on the matter.
While not the sole proprietor of all wisdom and knowledge (shocking as that might sound, HA!) , I do know the following:
* The lifelong friendships that I have forged are irreplaceable, period.
* I am thankful each and every day for the blessings that come from fatherhood. And I am proud to be my father's son (and my mother's).
* As the number of people who retain memories of my person as a small child continue to fall, I do my best to keep them at the front of the line of loved ones worthy of priority communication.
* I gain no satisfaction in maintaining grudges, bitter feelings, or frustration in incomplete "closures" from those intimately close to me in my past. Their participation in my life retains the same value regardless of history.
* My sense of priority is sharpened with the passage of time, and I do my best to act accordingly.
Rebecca's life was far too short, but she still managed to cram a whole lot of love and life into the time she had. But imagine how much more richer her life would have been if everyone for whom she touched in a positive way were to interact with her in an orderly basis? Life happens, of course, but for every person who couldn't literally be around her when less than pleasant things happen, there would be others eager and willing to stand in place. It doesn't have to be a physical visit; a telephone call, an email exchange, or a series of IMs or text messages could have also made a difference.
Travis' soul mate may be no longer physically here, but she will always be with us. As long as we remember her, speak her name, and otherwise recall and celebrate the times shared, Rebecca will never be forgotten nor fade into obscurity. She mattered. She matters. She always will matter. And for Travis, you too, will always matter.
In the days to come, there will be moments in which Rebecca's absence will be more overwhelming than the heart can bare. But in her circle of friends and family, a network exists that eagerly awaits the opportunity to share a laugh and comfort a soul. For those who need it, use it when it avails itself, or seek it out proactively. And yes, consider myself to be an extension of that special network.
Our humanity comes at the price of mortality. While our time here is fleeting, our ability to make a difference is not. If one can take the gifts availed to them and positively affect the existence of those who personally matter, it will not only be a very good thing, but also a wondrous way to pay tribute to those whom we love and cherish the most.
For absent friends, we can do no less. Godspeed, Rebecca.
Live like you really mean it, folks.