Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Permanent Past

As I'm sure most of you noticed, my last post was an obituary. It was a strange thing, hearing about Greg's death, since he used to be a very good friend of mine. The news of Greg's death was a shock. That he was murdered makes his death even more tragic. I was extremely saddened by the news - to the point of tears even.

But what amazed me - and continues to really capture my intrigue - is that beneath the tragic news I felt this very strong undercurrent of interconnectedness. The fact is, I haven't spoken to Greg in years, and for all intents and purposes our friendship dissipated the day I left for college. I never exchanged e-mails with him, or talked to him on instant messenger. I never made plans to hang out when I came back for vacation - though we did end up seeing each other a few of those times - and I never even really stopped to consider the friendship we once had. I'm sure Greg was the same way. We were great friends in middle school and high school, but our lives went in different directions and we drifted apart.

The practical reality is that Greg's death will have no significant impact on my daily life. I'm not losing a family member or close friend. Greg isn't someone I see every day whose absence I'll have to adjust to. In most ways Greg was already absent from my life, his death tragically cements that status.

There was one way though in which Greg was not absent from my life; we remained connected through our pasts. It is this interconnectedness that has captured my fascination of late.

When I heard the news that Greg died I was deeply affected. Despite the lack of an active relationship, his death had a serious impact on me. Our past joined us to each other in an amazingly powerful fashion. Nothing can ever sever the bond that we once had. Sure, life has changed us and we no longer have that connection, but the fact that we once were close friends is unchangeable. I don't know that I can really convey the depth of this feeling in words alone, [To be perfectly honest, this feels like it should be the theme of some great novel (Maybe it is).], but our past is permanent. For the rest of my life, for the rest of time, I will always have been friends with Greg. I know that sounds kind of funny, since the word tenses don't really match up, with the 'will' and the 'have been', but that doesn't change the truth of the statement. No matter what happens in my life - law school, marriage, becoming the King of England - my past is unchangeable; I was friends with Greg. And not even Greg's death - or mine for that matter - can change this fact.

One of the most fascinating elements of this realization has been the breadth of permanent past connection. Greg and I were friends through our church youth group; it wasn't just that we were friends, it was that we were friends with a whole bunch of other people. Over the past week or two I've received (and sent) e-mails and comments, and had conversations, with people that shared my connection with Greg. These too are people who, for the most part, I haven't spoken with since high school, except for the occasional update. Yet Greg's death brought so many of us together. And the reason for that is so beautifully powerful - the permanent bond of our shared past.

Regrettably I was unable to attend either the wake or the funeral. But I heard about both, as well as the gathering that was held after the funeral. Apparently a good number of those from our old gang got together to catch up, share stories, and remember Greg. I wish I could have been there.

Because no matter how far apart we all drift, we will always be connected. Through our past we are connected in the here-and-now. Some of us are husbands or wives. Some of us are mothers or fathers. Some of us are lawyers, or teachers, or sales persons. Heck, one of us is even the new youth minister at that very same church! And because of our past we are all still connected. I might not have had an active relationship with Greg, but because of my past I was still tied to everything he had become. And the same proves true for every single person from that old group.

Our past binds us permanently together. That's a powerful - and beautiful - thing.

And as the years go by
Our friendship will never die


Anonymous said...

What you sad is truly beautiful. It has helped me in more ways then you will know.

Gregola said...

Wow, that's pretty much what I've been thinking about this whole thing, but I couldn't quite put it into words. It also fills in a lot of the blanks that I couldn't quite fit into. I think it's fitting that he brought so many of us back together. I'm sure that's the way he would have liked it.