Teach them how to say goodbye

 

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While the COVID-19 disaster grinds on, with no real ending in sight, everything seems to be getting harder. Although there’s been lots of songs written in the past about Hard Times, none of them could ever foresee the world we’re in right now.

33 million Americans have now applied for unemployment benefits, and the unemployment rate today is higher than it’s ever been before. And the truth is, a considerable percentage of those jobs are probably gone for good. When businesses and restaurants shut down because they can’t bring in customers, everyone loses. The customers lose a place where they could go and spend their money, but the owners and employees of the business lose a lot more than that.

But the people who owned or worked in a restaurant or other business can still go and share their talents someplace else. The building where the business operated can find another tenant to come in. And the customers of the place, the regulars and the one-timers alike, can find some other place that will meet their needs. Some of the best businesses I’ve ever been to have already shut down, or will do so by the time all this is over, whenever that may be.

But life is another story. When a person dies, or even a loved animal companion, there’s a hole in the lives of everyone who is left behind. I wrote about this with my dog Dooney, who was put down two weeks ago. The arrival of his cremated remains earlier this week served as still another reminder that life with him, as much as I enjoyed it, is never coming back.

While trying to process this loss, I learned this week of the sudden passing of a classmate of mine, Jerry D. Lemmon II. I had spent thirteen years as a classmate of Jerry’s, in elementary school and high school, and am providing a picture of he and I, along with a nun and about two dozen other six year-olds, to prove that we went back a very long way. And for the record, he’s on the far right side of the top row, standing next to the nun who was our teacher.

In the years since Jerry and I graduated from high school together, he went his way in life and I went mine. It’s hard for an 18 year-old to understand this, but the majority of the people you go to school with will effectively disappear, once that school bond has been severed.

Facebook has since provided us all with a new avenue for keeping in touch with one another, and that’s something previous generations didn’t have. They have built a very large and successful business by linking us together in ways that weren’t possible at the beginning of this century.

But even with this innovation, an old-fashioned class reunion is still the best way to share a few moments with old classmates. I’ve been to one class reunion, for my 25th anniversary of high school graduation a number of years ago. I saw Jerry there and we spoke for probably a minute, at the most. We weren’t really friends in school, and reunions aren’t meant for making friendships where they didn’t exist before. But it was good to know, after a quarter century had gone by, that he and I were both out there somewhere in the world, doing our respective things. Or, as The Big Lebowski phrased it, abiding.

2020 has, in just a few short months, brought a level of death and disruption that none of us have seen before. And despite the recent calls that we should all venture back out into a literally untested society, where the coronavirus could be lurking in any number of places, we haven’t yet seen how all of this will end up. Until there’s a vaccine, these losses will continue to mount.

COVID-19 didn’t kill my dog, nor did it kill my classmate, so far as I know. But in a society already dealing with so much loss, the cause of these deaths is secondary to the fact that they’re now gone. Who or what will be the next thing to go away from any of us? That we can’t know, and the uncertainty of it is something we can’t change, either.

A large part of the reason I write this blog is to recognize and act upon the mortality of us all. There will come a time I’m not here anymore, and I don’t get to select the date and method of this ending. So while I’m still here, and have a means for doing so, I’m creating a time capsule here on the internet.

It’s not possible or practical to put everything and everybody into this time capsule, but my old classmate Jerry, by virtue of his sudden passing at an early age, is now a part of it. So too are all of my classmates shown above, whether they want to be or not. I may not ever have the occasion to write about any of them by name, but whoever reads this post, at whatever point in the future that will happen, will be able to see their faces and know that they were all here on this planet.

May each of us appreciate the people and things we have in our lives, today and every day that we can.

 

 

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