Sunday, November 8, 2009

Memories Of An Old Friend

There is something about this time of year that is almost magical for me. As I sit or walk outside, feel the coolness in the air, and smell the leaves, I’m transported back in time. For some reason memories just seem more vivid to me during autumn. Tonight I have the rare occasion to be completely alone, so I lit some candles, poured a glass of wine and am letting the memories just have their way.

Twenty-seven years ago this month, a very close friend of mine died when the car in which she was a passenger was hit by a train. She was a sophomore in college – just starting her life. That day changed me in a way that no other event ever has. It was my first real experience with tragedy. I looked through old boxes of keepsakes tonight and found the “Jenny” box…filled with the cards and letters that she gave me and all the newspaper clippings about her death. I have a book of poems that she had written and a couple of things that were special to her that her parents had given me – I hadn’t pulled them out in years. Tonight, though, I felt compelled. I’m not dwelling on the sadness that I experienced when she died, I just wanted to think about my friend and all the ways her friendship changed my life for better.

A few things changed in me on the other side of my grief. I began to understand what it means to share my heart with God. Before that my prayers were shallow and I was afraid to express true emotions. I was so angry after Jen died that I either had to share that anger or be superficial and fake. In the Psalms, David was completely honest and open with his true emotions. I didn’t see or understand his expressiveness until I was in a position to be furious at God and to have to work through those emotions honestly with him in prayer.

I also realized that when I was having a hard time actually understanding my emotions, that if I wrote my feelings out in a journal or a poem they would usually sort themselves out. I wrote my first poem the day after Jenny died. Writing and journaling continue to be a sort of therapy for me. My books of poetry are my life’s journal.

And finally, I realized the value of friendship. I am much more grateful for my friends and try my best to make sure that they know how much I care for them. Jenny was always leaving notes or sending cards or showing how much she cared in little ways. She had written me a card the night before she died…just to let me know she loved me. I still have it, of course. Those small yet meaningful gestures she made really stuck with me and have instilled in me a desire to do the same for those I love.

I still have a photograph of Jen that I took the week before she died. It sits on my bookshelf and I see it all the time. For someone I knew for a short time, she had a profound impact on me.

It happened on a day like this
The sun was bright
The leaves were vibrant in color
The air had the feel of autumn
That is unmistakable
I was young and carefree
This time of year takes me back
The years have been many
And my perspective has changed
I remember the innocence
Of a young soul
That touching mine
Gave my soul more depth to it
Life was no longer as simple
But it became more precious
And the people in it
More valuable
And so to you
Friend of years past
Thank you
For gently shaping
My soul

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