I’ve been debating for the past 5 days whether to write this or not. It’s close to Christmas and not the best time to share a sad story. But I do believe that we do not always consciously choose what to write about. There are moments in our life that just beg to be shared.
The fact is, that many years ago, when I was seventeen, I lost a friend in a traffic accident. He was just eighteen. There is much that I have forgotten about that day but some details are still extraordinarily clear. It was a cold and wet night when the accident happened and the wind ripped through the island, uprooting centuries-old trees and leaving a trail of damage in its path. It was a time when news travelled slowly, much more slowly. I only got to know about it the next morning. I remember the surreal feeling in the air at school; groups of friends huddled together in shocked silence. Tears fell freely. Gone were the teenage swagger and bravado. All around me were stricken, incredulous looks. In one day we went from being careless, carefree teenagers to suddenly being confronted by our own mortality; our vulnerability. Death had claimed one of us and we were powerless. With that came the sobering realization that it could have been any one of us. Life offered no guarantees.
It would be an over-simplification to say that we grew up that day. We didn’t. But life had dealt us a blow and taught us a bitter lesson. That was twenty-five years ago. We have moved on. There is grey in our hair now and laughter lines around our eyes. We have loved. We have lost. We have had our fair measure of success and of failure. But I like to think that we each carry the memory of our friend in our hearts. It’s been many long years, a quarter of a century is a long time, and time has blurred so much. There are countless things about my friend that I cannot remember – like his height, the timbre of his voice, the exact colour of his eyes. But I do remember one thing - his warm smile; and perhaps, after all these years, it is what matters most. I think it is what the majority of us remember and, knowing him, I know it is a legacy of which he would be proud.