How will we be remembered?

My friend Nathan, I’ll remember taking Calvin and Hobbes to him when he was in the hospital. We found out he had leukemia a few days before high school graduation.

I’ll remember hoping they made him laugh and brought him wisdom of a sort to life’s existential problems I’m sure he was facing. I’ll remember him never really talking to me about this disease, but knowing he was thankful for my support. I’ll remember my feelings, the way I looked up to him for the strength he seemingly had going through chemo. I’ll remember shaving my head in solidarity — a good six months before he ever lost any hair.

I’ll remember the way he laughed and took it good humor when we made fun of him.

I’ll remember thinking  his sister was cute. And I’l remember the regret I felt when I couldn’t make it to his bachelor party and wedding.

My friend Jeremy, I’ll remember for the way he always sought the good in everything — all because of his love of God. I’ll remember him giving his lung to his younger brother, who had cystic fibrosis, as if it was no big thing. I’ll remember playing pranks with him, like unhooking the spark plug from his sister’s friend’s car when she had parked it in a cemetery to toilet paper a boy. I’ll remember sneaking through the cemetery and hearing the two girls laugh. The way we moved stealth-like among the tombstones and wrote crytpic symbols with soap on their windshield.

I’ll remember that he was my first best friend in the truest sense. He was the first male I was ever able to fully open up to about feelings, about God, about Stuff That Mattered. I’ll remember how upset I was that  he couldn’t be my best man, but  how relieved I was when he moved back home from Texas and California. 

I’ll remember summer’s with Austin. Always summers. I’ll remember riding bikes and four-wheelers. Swimming at the country club and at his pool. Soccer games and karate matches on trampolines. I’ll remember getting sent to the principal’s office for the first time together — in first grade. I’ll remember the way we were inseparable for most of our childhood. 

I think a lot lately of two recent friends. One in Chicago:

Ben and I.

Ben and I.

And one in Columbus:

Little fact: I don't like hugs.

Little fact: I don't like hugs.

I think of expensive beer and cheap Mexican lunches I only found recently weren’t vegan. I think of the way I felt around them when we were together, like I had never met two people so different from me who I got along with so well. I remember the feeling like they were brothers. I’ve always wanted a brother. 

I remember especially the heartache I went through when they moved away. How lonely I felt. How empty. Like they were a part of me. I remember the way they got me through things, tough things, but nowhere near Serious Things, without likely ever knowing it. How they formed my opinion of myself, which was still highly in question, even though I was in my upper 20s, had a house, a good job, etc etc (you know, all the Important Things). 

Why do I think of these Things tonight, on a dreary, rainy Tuesday?

I’ll tell you. I’ve spent the last two hours watching a documentary done as a letter to the son of a man who was killed. The documentary was full of memories from this man’s friends, families, colleagues; a diary of sorts telling this man’s son what his dad was like. 

I found the memories of this man interspersing with my own. A picture flashed of the murdered man playing pool and I thought of Jeremy’s brother, who considered himself a poolshark. 

I saw a man crying on his couch, remembering his dead friend, but trying to keep it together for the sake of his toddler son, who was standing nearby. I thought of my kitchen floor, my back against the cabinets below the sink, my knees raised, my head pressed into my hands, the tears pooling below me. I thought of my own son, just a toddler then, and the pain I felt that grew stronger when I realized he was watching me. How would I tell him I wouldn’t be in his life full-time? How would I tell him Mommy and Daddy couldn’t live together anymore?

Even more personally, How do I live without him? 

And so the movie ends and I’m left wondering about memories. About how there is no future, there is no past. There is only now. The past is only a collection of memories, subject to moving, shaping, shifting over time. Can I trust my memories? Did all of those events I just thought about really happen? If I can’t, can I trust the past? Can I trust myself and the decisions I make based on my past experience?

These are all too heady of things for me to deal with right now. I’ve got enough things going on. But I’ve made a resolution to start talking more about these Important Things. To open up avenues of discussion. To heal. To create community. To cure loneliness. To build another babylon. To find truth. To reach God.

I hope if anyone reads this, they’ll be quick to chime in and slow to judge. I can only write and hope you’ll write back.

In the meantime,  I can only wonder, How will I be remembered?


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