Yesterday, an old friend lost his life.
And though I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in more than 17 years, the news today still hit me like a kick in the gut.
We weren’t close friends.
But we were brothers in arms – stationed together in the military, we shared a common experience and a lot of good times. We shared good friends, people who knew each of us better than we knew each other, and that seemingly thin bond made us a permanent part of each other’s life story.
We shared beers, barbecue and very similar work experiences – and when it came time for me to leave the Air Force for civilian life, we went our separate ways.
We never saw each other again.
In spite of the time elapsed, though – I know that if I had run into him any time between then and now, I would have introduced him to my new friends as one of my old friends – one of the people who left enough of an impression on me so many years ago, that I would consider him a friend the rest of my life – because that’s how I last saw him.
I remember him always smiling, always apparently happy, always with a laugh, always easily making others around him laugh too. He was one of those guys who people were glad to see coming and sorry to see leave.
When I heard of his passing, even 17 years after I last actually saw him – I was terribly sad to see him leave.
The group of friends we shared all went their separate ways over the past almost two decades. We’ve spread to the four winds, all across the country and a large part of the world. My friend’s passing leaves ripples of mourning around the globe, much farther than he might ever have imagined.
His life impacted people, just by meeting them over the years – just by sharing part of himself with them – sometimes just by sharing a laugh.
Friends, family, coworkers, neighbors.
Each of our lives touches countless others.
I didn’t really know my friend for the last 17 years of his life.
I cannot speak to his triumphs or sorrows – his victories or his failures.
I don’t know what happened in his life, what pressures or stresses he had.
What I do know is that he will be sorely missed – by a great deal of people who are glad to have known him, and deeply grieved that he’s gone.
If you think your life doesn’t matter, I beg you to reconsider. You touch people throughout your life, and even if you don’t realize it, there are those who want you to continue to be a part of their life story – and they want to be a part of yours, too.
Don’t give up.
Life can still be beautiful, even in the difficult stretches. You may not realize it, but those of us who love you or are just fond of you want you to stay. We want to experience as much of life’s beauty with you as we can, while we can. In return, we hope to give back to you some of the joy that you’ve given to us – just by sharing the time.
I miss my friend. His passing leaves a hole in my life story that I can never completely fill – because it was his unique part to fill.
Embrace the unique part God has given you to fill in the lives of others.
Fill that part as only you can, and live that life to the fullest.
May your life be richly blessed, and may you richly bless the lives of countless others – as my old friend did.