This past weekend found us traversing Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee by car before returning to Georgia; three days of connecting again with friends from decades ago, other lifetimes in the preincarnated (yes, I think I just created a word) state we often call young adults. It was a fabulous time that included lots of memories, laughter, and tears. Temperatures were in the triple digits, but it did not stop us from investigating places we had lived years before, experiencing again the joys of those times, and seeing how time changes terrain and erodes structures that once seemed so strong.
The highlight of the trip, of course, was in renewed relationships with friends. And I can hardly begin to tell how absolutely thrilling that was. From former students approaching 50, and friends around 60 and beyond, to friends in their early 90s . . . we touched once again the lives that helped shape us in the past. And the feeling was – astounding. There is no price you could put on the value of this short trip into our past.
It reminded me that my life (for lack of a better word) is – real. It is not a movie. I am not acting in a film that features me as the star and the rest of you as supporting actors (more on that in some future blog, perhaps); rather, each relationship is alive and real – not scripted, not coached, not filtered to make it look other than it is. And the effect I have on other people, and their effect on me, is indelible. It is as lasting as it can be. It is like the radiation life of U-238 (half life is 4.5 billion years); it sticks around a bit.
I embraced one of my best friends in the world on Friday night. His daughter was getting married, and we did not want to miss the chance to celebrate with him, his wife, and his son. I have known this friend for 35 years. The bond we have with one another is a prized possession to me. We have shared elated happiness and deep sadness, great pride in one another and great disappointment. Our love and mutual admiration runs deep.
My friend and I are marked with one another’s lives; we are branded as a part of the same herd. We share one another’s stories, and we have passed on to our children (and other friends as well) each other’s tales of humor, pain, success, and failure. Our lives are inextricably bound together. I stood with him many years ago at his father’s bedside just after he had passed to another life, and he comforted me with words of encouragement and genuine grief when my own father passed three years ago.
No, my life is not like a movie. But it is worth filming; a record worth preserving, a plot than rivals any on the silver screen. Because it affects the lives of countless numbers of people. Not as a form of entertainment. (Well . . . I have become a form of entertainment for folks on occasion – there was that time when . . . never mind)!
They say that anywhere from 300 million to 500 million people have seen the movie, Titantic. And I’m sure that out of that number a large percentage were affected and moved emotionally. But . . . marked indelibly? I doubt that number is very high. In fact, it might actually be zero.
But my life – and yours – they will mark people for countless generations.