We change with time in ways great and small. Sometimes we change and don’t exactly know why. Like yesterday, for example.
Yesterday, I went to the funeral home to say goodbye to a friend of mine that I had not seen a more than a quarter century. Mike Soper had been a leader in the Skiwi Ski Club long before I joined the organization in the mid-80s. He passed away Jan 4. 2015, at the age of 68 leaving behind a wife and two adult children.
Mike had been a fun-loving guy, charismatic and a leader back in the days I knew him. He enjoyed socializing, especially when there was alcohol to be had. Yet, he was also financially astute, knew how to organize and run activities and knew skiing. When, a couple of years later I took over the 200-member organization as president, I asked Mike to chair the ski committee. I always appreciated the fact that agreed to do so, although he had not wanted to serve again having done so multiple times over the years, including serving as club president. I knew with Mike in charge of skiing, I wouldn’t have to worry about that position. I was right.
And though Mike and I were good friends, we had lost touch over the years. In fact, I lost touch with all my Skiwi friends. It was all my doing. They primarily lived on the far east side and I moved to the far west side because of work. I also met and married a widow with two young children from the westside. Those responsibilities plus the fact that my new wife didn’t like me associating with any of my pre-marriage friends, closed the door on my friendship with Mike and others I had grown close to over the years.
In time, via Facebook, I reconnected with a few former Skiwis and it was through that network that I learned of Mike’s passing. When I heard, I knew I needed to say goodbye. So yesterday, I made the two-hour round trip in heavy rush hour traffic and said my goodbye to Mike and my condolences to Sandy, his wife who I had also known too back in my club days.
About 35 years ago, I had a similar chance to say goodbye to a friend I had not seen in five years. Back then, I passed on the chance and that thought as gnawed at me since that time.
It was back in the late-70s. A one-time close friend of mine from high school passed away following a freak accident while playing touch football. His name was Mike Fischer, and although I was contacted about the arrangements I didn’t go to the funeral home. My reasoning then was that my friendship with Mike (and other high school buddies who had been part of our little group) was over; that door was closed. I had not seen any of them in four or five years. I had moved on to other interests and friendships, and so had they. Why take time to say goodbye to former friends?
Yet, here I was this week, paying my condolences to a man I had not seen in more than 25 years. And the fact that I did so has now brought up memories of the time when I did not pay my condolences to the grieving family of a kid who had been a close friend not that many years before.
Why the change? Maybe the fact that I am closer to death and/or that I have seen death a number of times since then. Maybe it’s my renewed faith since then. Maybe it’s the fact that I see life as being more precious now. Maybe it’s all of them.
I firmly believe I was wrong back then. I should have gone to the funeral home as a show of support. I should have let his widow and infant daughter know that Mike’s life mattered to me as did his passing, that I cared and that Mike was worth my coming and saying goodbye.
Maybe my saying goodbye to Mike Soper was also a way of saying goodbye to Mike Fischer. Maybe it’s a way of facing up to my thoughtless act and saying I was wrong and I’m sorry. I’m also sorry it’s taken me this long to admit it.