On Sunday, I went to a memorial service for a guy a used to work with, back in my airline days. He was 50 years old, with a wife and a fourteen year old daughter. He died of complications due to lung cancer, but wasn't a smoker, and was an athlete and outdoors man all his life. I never really knew him well, but we worked together for about 8 years on and off, and enjoyed giving each other crap and a lot of joking around.
He was diagnosed with cancer in July of 2008, and fought it with everything he had, and a positive spirit. I had lost touch with him after I left the company in January of 2008, and didn't even know he was sick until I was told that he had died a week ago last Sunday. It kind of took my breath away.
I went to the memorial for a couple of reasons. One, to show my support for the family, and to let them know that a lot of people will have good memories of him, far beyond those who knew him really well. The other reason, was probably a little selfish, but it was to see some of the folks I hadn't talked to or seen since I left the airline. I wanted them to know I still was out there, and that I hadn't forgotten all the good friendships when my career moved on.
But what really struck me as I listened to the eulogies, one given by his pastor, one given by his best friend, one by his brother, and one by his brother-in-law, was the long term bonds that he had formed in his life, and how much these people still meant to each other. His college room-mate was still his best friend. They lived close to each other, hung out on long weekends camping together on father-daughter trips, and drank micro-brews together on the weekends.
I felt slightly jealous of that. I've moved around a lot in my life, and was driven by a lot of solo projects and solo efforts. I enjoyed long distance cycling when I was in Colorado for the challenge and the solace. I like to read and write and play golf because it relaxes me and they're all things I can do by myself. I worked hard, and jumped at opportunities around the country (and from Canada to the US) because I could, and I didn't have anything to tie me down in my younger years. I don't regret moving here, as I have a great life, with a wonderful family and a job I love. But I haven't formed those long term bonds that he had. I don't have friends who have known me all my adult life and know all the stories about the stupid stuff I did in college, or that wild weekend in Wasaga Beach the summer of 1992, or how close I came to falling off a cliff in Utah in 1996. I know those stories, and some I'll tell to my kids (perhaps as cautionary tales), but there's something about someone you know coming up to you and asking 'Hey, do you remember that time..." that I probably won't get to experience as often as I'd like.
But I also realized, as I drove home, that it wasn't (hopefully) too late too make the effort to reconnect with some of those folks I used to know. More than to just add them as friends in Facebook, but to try to see them once in a while, hang out, and to help out when needed. Friendship isn't something that's always easy, but at least it's easier and more clear cut for me, since I'm a guy. Guy's have notoriously lower maintenance friendships than that other gender. I'm just saying.
Anyway, we all lead busy lives, and there's a hundred excuses we can find for not doing stuff with our friends. But maybe, just once in a while we need to sacrifice the important stuff, like watching a rerun of some old movie, to do the really important stuff like go and have a beer with an old friend, or to write an email to someone you haven't talked to in five or ten years.
So if you want to hang out and have a beer sometime soon, and I haven't called you already, give me a holler.