Things wear out.
Over the past four months, this very simple axiom has been demonstrated to me in the following ways: My office computer began the familiar slowdown that leads to the inevitable flashing blue screen and had to be replaced. The extendable handle on my office briefcase stopped extending and the briefcase had to be replaced. The glue on the crown on my front tooth that had stuck admirably for 30 years gave way and had to be replaced by a very expensive implant. My washer and dryer, 27 1/2 years old and never a minute’s trouble, both stopped working within 15 minutes of each other and had to be replaced.
And then, of course, my dog died. On a fine spring morning when the morning mist had not yet lifted from the fields, Lily just didn’t come out of her house. Went to sleep and didn’t wake up.
Nothing lasts forever.
But we want it to. We want something to last. The human heart is made of Velcro.
Earlier this week, I went to a memorial service for someone I’ve known most of my life. At the visitation the day before — as I stood in a long and serpentine line to speak to his family — to offer condolences that I knew couldn’t sound like much more than just another measure of a single song of sorrow, I watched as photographs memorializing this good man’s life were projected onto a flat white screen: white-water rafting with his older brother and their sons; gazing into the face of his newborn grandson; sharing Christmas with his mother.
And then the photograph that brought me to tears: five men, their arms around each others’ shoulders, half-smiling at the camera held by one of their wives. Lifelong buddies. I know them, all of them. I knew them as boys. I watched them play baseball on Jaycee Field and football on Womack Field. I watched them grow into good men, good fathers, good husbands. I still watch them.
At the memorial service, I sat near the back of the church. At the last amen, I watched the faces of those men as they walked down that long, long aisle and back out into the world, a world without the smile, the laughter, the company of their friend.
I forget sometimes, when I go to the grocery store and don’t see a soul I know or walk a few blocks down the street and nobody blows his horn and waves at me or meet someone for the first time and don’t know a single person to whom she is related, that I still live among my people. I lose sight on occasion, when I’m watching too closely the construction of too many new apartment buildings, of the landmarks that are invisible to the natural eye but still show me the way. I get lost every now and then in the maze of newer, faster, better, only to get so tired that all I can do is sit down and wait for a familiar face to show up and remind me where I am.
There are a lot of reasons to leave the place that reared you. There are also a lot of reasons to stay. One of the best is that when we do, we get to remain a part of each other’s stories, right to the end.
Nothing lasts forever — except love. And friendship. And the memories of a shared lifetime.