A year ago today, one of my friends from childhood died.
As I get older, I realize how much the fragility of life is to be respected – at any time it could be over. This awareness makes me want to appreciate every day – each moment…and to always make an attempt to do the right thing and be a good person. I’m not always successful at this, but the intent is there. At the risk of sounding like a full-on Boulder County kook who binge watches Long Island Medium, I do know that in recent years I’ve become much more conscious of soulful spiritual presence taking the place of physical presence upon death. I’ve felt there are times when my loved ones (pets included) who have passed are still with me in spirit.
So, back to my friend who died last year – I had this kind of unique experience upon his passing – couldn’t sleep because of it, and got up in the middle of the night to write about it. Here’s what I wrote:
Tonight wasn’t much different than any other night. Around 8:00, my dog Zoe and I set out for our routine walk in the neighborhood. She is old for a dog – 16 – but still happy to go with me. I enjoy our little “tours” – each one bringing back a memory of my childhood in this old neighborhood.
As I pass houses where my friends lived, a smile often comes to my face. Memories of birthday parties, playing “kick the can” and neighborhood snowball fights in the park are some of my favorites. One friend lived around the corner from me. His name was Jamie Taylor. He had red hair, was short and lived in a house that was at one time pink. And he was fun. I have thought of him almost every day for awhile. A few months ago, I heard that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
I hadn’t seen Jamie since our 30th class reunion two summers ago. And before that, I ran into him a few times at a convenience store that was near both our places of work. Other than that, we didn’t really know each other as adults. Life had gotten in the way.
But there is something very special about your childhood friends. You just are who you are when you’re a kid. You don’t pull judgments about possessions or money – you’re just friends and its as easy as that. You have a bond with those first friends that is like no other you will ever have in life. It makes me sad to think of how as we age we let a lot of other things get in the way of staying in touch.
But we were just kids and we were friends.
Jamie, his younger brother John and I spent many nights playing in the ‘hood. It was the early ‘70’s and we didn’t have video games, computers or 200 television channels to occupy our time. I can’t recall many details, but I remember rushing through many a dinner so that I could get outside to play with the Taylor boys. I DO remember one night in particular when we threw a 5 pound bucket of wet beans though an open door down the hall of Central School. (Apologies to that poor janitor!) The boys would always be the ones who could actually manage to climb on the roof of the school too. I could never match their Spiderman like capabilities of scaling the wall to get up there. I think I may have been a teeny bit scared of getting caught too. Its still on my bucket list of things to do. We were a little bit mischievous to say the least.
Tonight, as Zoe and I walked around the school, we passed the stairs on the east side of the building. A series of class pictures went through my mind as many were taken on those steps. We continued around past the north door (the scene of the “bean” incident) and the gym…more pictures flashing. Trampolines in the gym, those square boards with wheels on the bottom flying across the floor, mean games of Dodgeball and the flipping President’s physical fitness tests I had to endure on an annual basis. (I was the chubby kid.) And then as we reached the northwest corner of the grounds, I felt a presence. Looking back across the playground, I felt a deep sense of memory, of appreciation-of how it seems like just yesterday we were running across that playground screaming our heads off playing tag. It was a feeling of warmth that you feel when a spirit is present. I took note, but didn’t quite know what to think about it. Maybe I was just having a melancholy moment.
After I returned home, I opened my email and it was there. A note from a mutual friend telling me that Jamie passed away today.
Now I know what that feeling was earlier at the school. I think that just maybe on his way out, Jamie’s spirit came to say goodbye to the memories of our Central days.
Goodbye my childhood buddy. I wish we had stayed closer as adults – we would have had some fun. Know that someday, I’ll meet you on the playground in heaven. Maybe then, you can help me make it up on the roof.
So do me a favor and in honor of Jamie, reconnect with an old friend. Via Facebook, Skype, email or a good old fashioned phone call. It will do your soul~and their’s~good.
Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
Zoe had to leave too…in March this year. I know she’s with Maggie and Bill now, running along the ditch and forging the hay field with her wet nose. But as with her canine sibs, part of her is with me – in my heart, snuggling me in the crook of my knees as I go to sleep every night.