I heard during the week that an old friend of mine had reached his expiration date (his words). The doctors had given him three years at the start of 2014 and this turned into eight months. He truly was one of God’s finest contributions to my world and one of the loveliest men I have had the good fortune to know. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to spend a few days with him last year, having only been in written contact since 2002. And he still hadn’t lost any of his charm or his magic. He had a way of looking at life that defied the odds; his emails were poetic and insightful and never failed to give me a new perspective, no matter the subject. I will miss him terribly.
This news came on the back of Robin Williams’s death, when the world poured out its affection, its sense of loss, and is shock at his untimely passing. It was moving to see how much he touched the hearts of so many millions of people and yet I wonder if he fully understood the effect he had on the world. And if he had, would that have helped? Part of me felt that this adulation came a little too late – as is often the case in life. We only miss those we love when they’re gone; and it’s only when we can no longer talk to them that we think of all the things we wish we’d said.
My friend was given three years. He was polishing his bucket list, narrowing down the places he really wanted to visit. Top of that list was a return trip to Alaska, a place forever etched in his memory. He also wanted to see Croatia and come to visit me in Budapest. And New Zealand was on there, too. He thought he had time. He didn’t.
We truly never know how long we have; or indeed how long those around us have. We consciously put off until tomorrow things we don’t want to do today, knowing, on some level, that tomorrow might never come. We go to bed fighting. We wake up bitter and alone. We spend too much time castigating others, bemoaning our lot in life, instead of telling them we care and being thankful for small mercies.
Life has a way of waking us up – it’s called ‘the deaths of others’. If at no other time, and even if only for an hour, or a day, or a week, we resolve to be more present, to be more grateful, to be more honest with ourselves and with others, then perhaps these people have not died in vain. Better still, though, is that we carry that lesson with us and constantly strive to make the most of the time we have on Earth, to tell those closest to us how we feel about them and not take for granted that they will be divinely inspired and simply ‘know’. Instead of putting off until tomorrow, or next week, whatever it is we want to say or do, we should do it today. Because, in many cases, today is all we have.
This week, I’m grateful that RB was part of my life. I’m grateful for everything thing he taught me. I’m grateful that ours was an engaging two-way correspondence that defied both time and distance. And although I’ll miss the cards and letters and emails and parcels, although I’ll miss knowing that he won’t be reading every blog I write – I will always have the memories. And I am so grateful that I took the time to make some more. You’re a legend Mr B. Thank you.