Wednesday, September 19, 2012

All things pass

Yesterday I logged on to Facebook, in part, to see if there were any new posts from a high school friend, Hector. He’d attended our class’ 35th reunion last weekend, so I was curious if he’d posted anything about it—or about anything else, because he always posted interesting things.

But instead of interesting or entertaining posts, I read on my class’ Facebook page that Hector had died suddenly on the way back home. To say I was stunned is a bit of an understatement; I was already a little emotionally deflated after the Pride 48 podcasting weekend, so reading that knocked the wind out of me.

I’d only reconnected with Hector in October of last year, on Facebook; I hadn’t spoken with him since high school. We’d been casual friends back then, enough to have a friendly chat (or more serious discussion of the issues of the day), and I always thought he was intelligent, thoughtful and had a good sense of humour.

However, Hector and I weren’t in the same group of friends, and in a way that only makes sense when one is a teenager, I was wary of some of the folks in his friendship circles. So, it wasn’t surprising that our connection ended after we graduated.

Recently, however, I’ve been interacting with a wider variety of people on Facebook, including some of my high school classmates, and through someone else I ran across Hector and sent a friend request. Before long, we were commenting on and/or sharing each other’s posts, and getting to know each other, probably for the first time in some ways.

Now, that’s all over. I’m pleased for him that he had one last chance to get together with some of his family and friends, and glad for them, too, that they got that chance as well. Many people never get that opportunity.

And yet, I can’t help thinking about some of the symbolism around Hector’s death. When a classmate dies, especially someone we all thought highly of, and who was still full of life, we can’t reasonably persist in the self-delusion that we’re not really aging. Times like this remind us of the march of time and of our own mortality.

Our class has suffered loss before: Another classmate and friend died suddenly some years back, and we’ve had suicide and illness take others, so death alone isn’t the sole reminder.

I admit it: I’ve looked at some of the recent photos of my classmates and thought to myself, “who are all those middle-aged moms and dads?!” In my mind, they all still look as they did when we left high school for the last time, because in my mind’s eye I do, too (well, not quite for me; in my mind’s eye I’m still as I was 20-25 years ago). So, I find it surprising and a little disorienting when I see what those teenagers look like now—or when I see myself in a mirror.

Time passes. So do all things. The title of this post isn’t an allusion to Matthew 24:35 (“Heaven and earth will pass away”), nor to the George Harrison song. Instead, it’s a simple statement of fact, one that reminds me of another thing.

When I was not long out of university, I ran across a line from the The Aeneid by Virgil: Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. It’s translated many different ways, but the version I like the best is, “Perhaps, one day, remembering even these things will bring pleasure.” Most of us don’t dwell on the bad things that happen, remembering instead the good things.

And so it is with events like this. Eventually we remember only the good things and the bad and painful will soften or fade away altogether. It’s the way it’s always been, because all things do pass.


Roger Owen Green said...

Sorry about your friend.
(And naturally, I DID think of the Harrison song, which was the theme of our high school prom!)

Arthur Schenck said...

Actually, I was thinking of you when I put in that link—you're about the only other person I know who'd have made that connection!