When we are little we are immortal. We know this. It is what splits the veil between this life and possibility. It is what causes us to leap off the back of the tallest chair in the house, wearing our magic cape and knowing beyond shadow of doubt that we can fly. It is what gives us the strength to launch our bike off the homemade ramp, knowing that we will ride the wind all the way across the stream, landing safely on the other side. It is the solid conviction that we will never die that allows us to leap off the garage clutching the umbrella with the absolute certainty that we will float to the ground.
We think that it is time that robs us of our ability to know these magical things of immortality. It is not time, it is loss. I lost a friend today. Each time this has happened in my lifetime I have felt a little more of that innocent immortality leave me. It is almost as if our lives shed layers of the sempiternal like a flower losing its petals to the wind, one by one.
The first one you truly remember is a shock. It is an unforgettable moment where your heart demands the impossibility of the news because you just saw them. As if your very seeing is somehow a talisman against loss. This is where the stripping begins. One layer of immortal certainty is ripped away. The services of memory do nothing to ease your conviction that it can’t be happening - yet somehow it is. Each one becomes more painful than the last because each one strips off a layer that is closer and closer to the deepest part of our heart, the place where we secretly hold onto that last shred of childhood magic. It is here that the tiny beating kernel of our very essence holds the last guileless giggle of innocence.
I guess this means that today I became an adult.
I don't want to be an adult. I want my friend back.
His name was Bill. We called him our Elder Statesman, our Mr. President (he was our church council president 22 times over his years at the church). I thought of him as a rock. He was unassailable in my view, he spoke with absolute conviction and when he spoke people listened. He was an island of certainty when times were uncertain. He was my friend.
As a Christian I know I am supposed to take great comfort in the fact that my friend is no longer in pain, is standing in the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and is finally, totally, completely happy. Selfishly, all I can think about is that I want him here. I want him and his wonderful wife Jeanette to walk in on Sunday morning and be as I see them, always together. I will not get my wish and I want to stomp my feet and cry like a child, but I can't because I have no childhood left. Now I know the terrible cost of gravity, the brittleness of life, the reality that the wind cannot blow me to safety, and the brevity of the firefly.
Tomorrow I will mourn his passing, but tonight I will stare out the window with my adult eyes and wonder why it has to be this way.