I had been doing Ok for the past few hours until I sat down to tie some flies at my fly-tying bench. I turned on some John Denver music and then out came “Goodbye Again”. That is when I lost it, in tears.
On and off for the past forty years, I have been trying to locate my old best friend from High School. Dale and I first met in seventh grade. We spend many hours together playing tennis, handball, swimming, camping, and fishing. We just seemed to click at an important scrapping young boys’ level.
When I went away to college we, unfortunately, grew apart through time, but not through our original bond. Eventually, he joined the Navy and we both got married. We two couples were able to get together once for dinner and then somehow we got separated for a very long time.
Every once in a while, I would wonder where Dale was. I had no address or phone number. I had moved around the country and who knew where he was? I called up our old High School, but with no luck. With the advent of the internet, I would occasionally search here and there but again with no luck.
Then about six months ago I tried “one more time” to find him. There were plenty of people with his first and last name, but I had no way of narrowing down the very long list. That is when I decided to quit trying. Then after just a few weeks, I received a letter dated June 8, with his name on the return. That was about three months ago. I opened it with great surprise and joy, better than any Christmas present in memory. As it turns out, he too had been looking for me for about the same amount of time. He had been living in Central California all this time. His letter expressed his gratitude for our old friendship and regret for our separation. I was able to get a phone number and called him the next day. It was one of the most heartfelt reunions I have ever felt. I had what seemed like a thousand questions. His wife was also on the line and after some time told me that Dale had been suffering from Squamous Cell Carcinoma which had treacherously traveled from his cheek to his neck and now his brain. Dale had recently decided that he wanted no more chemo or radiation. I was stunned and heartbroken.
We set up a Zoom meeting for the next week and spoke for what must have been two hours about the joy of the old days. Stories were told, and memories were recounted. As we ended our visit, we decided to continue with the Zoom meeting every two weeks. Unfortunately, when our next meeting date arrived, his wife emailed me to say that Dale was too ill to Zoom. So, we set an appointment for the following week. That meeting too was canceled because he had to go to an impromptu doctor’s appointment. The next day I got a call from Dale and his wife suggesting that Dale had become too ill to proceed with future Zoom’s. They told me that he had agreed to go on Hospice. I felt a very deep sadness for my old friend, his family…and myself.
Without an expectation of any response, I got permission to send Dale occasional emails, just to stay in touch. My latest short email was today. I said,
I was thinking about you brother and I want to wish you a peaceful and pain-free day.
Twenty minutes later:
“Tim, You and Dale really were kindred spirits. Dale went to be with his heavenly father last night. Both of our children were with us as Dale left this world.
What…no, no, no!! Goodbye Again?
I am so grateful for the brief reconnection I had with one of the really good guys out there.
I am also once again painfully reminded of how little time we have with the people around us. Oh, to appreciate what we have.
We all have to say Goodbye Again from time to time. But until then perhaps we would do well to keep saying Hello Again…as many times as possible.