Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Million Tomorrows

In recent days, my thoughts have been on now absent friends — a longtime family friend who died last weekend and the brother of one of my closest friends who chose to take his own life a couple of days ago.

Their passing — like the recent anniversary of my mother's death — reminds me of times in my life that I cherish. Times that are gone forever — and, yet, they are times to which I still would like to return whenever I wish, like walking through a door into another room in your home.

That reminds me of something that John Lennon once said. I forget precisely how he phrased it, but it was something like this: "Death is like getting out of one car and getting into another."

Perhaps it is that simple.

But it can be downright tough to be among those who are left. This week, I've been remembering the service at my mother's graveside. At the conclusion, some of her friends had arranged to release balloons in a symbolic gesture to my mother's spirit, which was understood to be up there. I stood next to my father and, although I don't know if he has ever believed in an afterlife, I heard him mutter, "I want to go, too," as the balloons sailed higher and higher, finally disappearing in some clouds.

There are times when losing the people close to me seems to make me more aware of my responsibility to remember things. I mean, who will remember them if I don't?

In the last week, I've been thinking about moments I shared with my mother. Some are moments I haven't thought about in a long time, but, in most cases, I'm the only one left who would remember them. When I die, those memories will cease to exist.

And then I think of Big Bob, and I remember the times my family shared with his when I was growing up. There's a larger group of people who might remember those moments, but I often wonder if any of them do.

And then there is Sam, who was closer to my age but didn't cast the same kind of shadow over my life. I knew him through Brady, and I remember times when Sam was with us and he played his guitar.

Those were the days, my friend. I thought they'd never end.

But, like all things, they did.

Memories like that are frozen in my mind. I often feel like I'm the last one standing, sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally — like Gloria Stuart, who, as 102–year–old Rose in "Titanic," laments that Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) "exists only in my memory."

For some reason, in recent days I have been thinking of Randy Sparks' song "Today," which he composed while with the New Christy Minstrels, the folk group he formed nearly 50 years ago.

I guess most of the younger generation haven't heard of the New Christy Minstrels. Folk music isn't as popular as it used to be. And "Today" wasn't as big a hit for the Minstrels as songs like "This Land is Your Land."

But "Today" is, in my opinion, one of the best songs of the folk era — and it is a reminder that what is true today may not be true tomorrow.

Take nothing for granted.

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