The Parting

Today, I heard from a close friend of mine that he was diagnosed with bone cancer. He was filled with it! It was very surprising because several months ago the doctors were able to beat back prostrate cancer and he’d been declared cancer free, and so it came as a shock to him and his wife!

We’d been close friends for years although we lived in two different countries, so what is distance nowadays with all the possible ways to communicate? At any rate, he tried to play it down as most would, making light of the situation and saying that perhaps the tests were inaccurate. Next week the doctors were going to make further tests and take more samples, and he said he’d be fine.  We talked at length about politics and everyday things as we both tried in our way to digest what we knew was very bad news but the topic kept drifting back. I asked him how his wife felt and he said that she was upset, understandably so! He also stated that they were making plans, getting prepared for the worst in the event it quickly took him. Chuckling, he added that the doctor said he’d probably live another two, maybe three years. We both knew he was lying. I told him that I had been planning to come back to the states to visit some friends within the next two years, but I could also come this summer to see him and his wife, but he said that I shouldn’t worry too much, and we had enough time, and so I ended the conversation with a cheerful, “I’ll give you another ring in two weeks” as I hung up the phone.

Time cannot be measured by the clock, but rather by the heartbeat, by the emotions that we feel. Sure, we use the clock to keep appointments and to plan events and so on, but about the rhythm of life, time is superfluous. It’s simply living until the heartbeat ceases when the last breath is taken, and the eyes close for the final time. The cessation of life and the end of the rhythm of time. When we know that our hour is approaching, how do we react? How can one relate to the inevitable and yet be so wholly unprepared for what we know would one day be our destiny? The words we speak, are they adequate for the moment or just a pin drop on an empty basketball court?

I am a man who has seen much, spoken with thousands, walked countless miles, read many books on wide-ranging topics, spent time on the sea and in the air and learned to walk with the people where I met them. I was so busy learning how to live and explore that I forgot to maintain the friendships I had made and would let the years slip in between the cracks until they became as distant memories. I always knew that I would return again, at some point, to renew the paused relations, but then again, sometimes I waited too long. Then it was too late, and all that was left were memories of a bygone day, of a heart that had been broken by a man too busy with his ideals and dreams to see the pain inflicted upon her face. Of a friend whose friendship I had unintentionally abused and later regretted the fall. But the worst was saying goodbye to someone who meant a lot, but the pull of life kept me moving, until this very afternoon!

I have been friends with this man and his wife since years, and they were always good to me, though I couldn’t say that I was always there when they asked for my help! Living overseas is not helpful!  I heard of the death of his son, and I felt their pain. She told me of her father and mother in their final days, and her story moved me. Sometimes he would tell me stories of years gone by, and I would laugh so hard that tears would run down my cheeks! He and I both liked old trucks so I told him that one day when I have some time, I’d buy an old Ford truck and help him restore it and together we’d take a trip down some road singing “Country Roads” by John Denver! He told me that he’d like to have a 1939 model and I thought that was pretty cool and told him so! He laughed!

As I sit here at my desk and try to find the words, I look out my window and notice that the sun had gone down. The clouds have a pinkish color, and there is a warm breeze that is lifting the budding branches of the trees to and fro. Today, the temperature was around 70 degrees and my wife, and I was looking at different cars to buy although my heart wasn’t into it. I have seen people come into my life and go out just as I did with others, just as we all do and sometimes all that we wish for is a peaceful transition. But as death approaches someone who is a close friend and counselor, the pain unspoken is the pain well read to those who can see into the eyes and these eyes do not wish to see another loss of a close friend.

If we have the chance to make a few things good again, then take hold of the opportunity because you know it won’t come again. What is gone cannot be retrieved and a heart left unmended can never be healed. A close friend who’s hour is approaching should never have to face it alone just as sure as a brave face cannot conceal the fear of a trembling heart. When a close friend of yours has reached the point of no return, the best that you can do is just be there. And so must I.