Young or old, we are the sum of our experiences, be they personal or vicarious,and the lessons we've gleaned from them. As such, there is much we are unprepared for, and much we could not possibly have prepared for. For the most part we adapt. We get up and dust ourselves off when we fall down. All of our mistakes, our failures, and our inadequacies, provide an opportunity to change what we are doing. In the moment we may bemoan our misfortune, but inevitably the present will become the past, and we can move on as stronger individuals for our troubles.
So too are we confronted by those experiences that we would give back in a heartbeat. For all we may learn, for whatever strength we may gain, some lessons cost more than we would ever willingly pay.
The sun is shining. A cool breeze perfects a warm spring day. Walking from the car to the door, a phone call takes me back 18 years, and once more I am an infant born into the terrible unknown. After stumbling back into my dorm room I curl up into a ball and sob with every muscle in my body. It is all that I can do. It is all that I am. If I stop for one second, if I open my eyes and find myself in the present, I will be in a world where someone I love like a brother has taken his own life.
Stretching out into the past, a million events like threads make their way into the present. In all colors, shapes, and sizes they lead unerringly to this moment. Stretching out into the future are a billion possibilities. In only one place it all comes together. In only one moment, this moment, all of the threads meet. Often I find myself tracing back along my cord. I alight on a moment and wonder how I would've done things differently. I wonder where things would've gone, but the future only extends so far from an individual choice before breaking into a billion possibilities. It is a way of reliving missed opportunities. Now, more than ever, they truly are missed. Before this, there was always tomorrow. There was always another night out with friends that I missed to study. There was always another woman to replace the one that I was too shy to ask out. There was always love, life, and a bright future. Who we are is a construct of the present moment. When I go back and wonder "if," I do so with the knowledge that I have now. The man in those crystal moments of my past is not quite me. There is a cord between us, but wisdom and knowledge can only flow in one direction.
After a tragedy, time stands still. In our shock we hold onto the world as it was just before that moment. If only... If only. The further time marches on from that day, the more we are stretched. Something has to give. That moment is gone, and so are the billion possibilities that sprung out of it. In truth, the love, life, and a bright future that existed in that moment are gone with that moment. The task, then, is to find that which may come in this moment. It is a lesson that I learned from a death. It is a lesson that I would give back in a heartbeat, but now I find myself profoundly grateful for it. In a tragedy, the pain of the loss is a reflection of past meaning, and future hopes. There was a time when I could hardly think of the good times shared with my friend, because of what it meant going forward. A beautiful soul, a wellspring of life, a piece of the world, and a piece of me were suddenly gone in a flash. There was a gaping hole in me, because of all of the good things that this person represented in my life. When I made peace with his death, when I could take the memories we made for what they were; I could see all of those good things again; I could see how the past lived on in me. It is not the same. It is never the same. What impotent vision, what tragic delusion; that we should endeavor to make it so.
Continued in part 3...