I’ve been thinking a lot these days about various relationships in my life. This morning I went to a lecture by ethicist Michaal Josephson. He included a poem he wrote called, “What Will Matter.”
It’s a poem about what will matter once we’re no longer alive. He asks, “How will the value of your days be measured?”
It has a few stanzas, but one small part jumped out at me when I read it, and again when he recited it.
“What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.”
How many people have passed through your life that you still think of every day? Other than the obvious family members, there are quite a few for me – some who are dead, and some who are just missing from my world by choice.
I can honestly say I’ve never ended any relationship of friends, lovers or others without making intense efforts to maintain it. But it becomes ridiculous to continue to put energy into something when its glory days, if there ever were any, are long past.
I’ve never understood the idea of falling out of love with someone, or just not feeling a fondness for a friend that existed earlier. I don’t understand it. I don’t think I ever will. If I loved you at one time in my life, I still do. If we were ever friends, I still want to be friends. I feel a loss that you are not in my life.
In many ways, I’m very childlike in that I initially think others experience the world in the same way I do. But, logically I know from observing the actions of others is that this is not true for them. They do not feel the same loss I do at friendships lost or relationships gone. Regardless, sometimes life insists I let go, and make room for new relationships, even though I feel the loss.
So, how many will feel a lasting loss when I am gone? Or when you are gone? I guess that’s the billion dollar question.
I know I feel a loss for some people who are absent from my life, but it seems there is nothing to do but accept that. Maybe for me the lesson is to be smarter and not put so much energy into obviously waning relationships. I never want to let go. I always think there’s possibility. And I want to continue to build relationship.
Sometimes I feel as though I must be the only person on the planet who holds onto a 40 year old postcard, written by an elderly neighbor lady to a young girl. But, those few lines, no doubt written in haste, capture a moment. There’s a wedding – I hope they’re still happy; a note that she hopes Johnny is okay – a reference to a young man’s health issue that was a tremendous concern; a card from Niagra Falls that reminds me of a trip with people I love that I had no idea would happen when that card was received.
I remember visiting Mrs. Wildharber. Hers was one of the two houses close enough to walk to when I was a kid. It was her husband, Clyde, who drove my mother to the hospital in the middle of a blizzard when she went into labor with me and my parents’ vehicle wouldn’t start.
She was so very kind to me. At various times she arranged for a state legislator to write me a letter, gifted me with knick knacks I was drawn to, and she talked to me – in person and on a postcard.
Was Mrs. Wildharber someone I was really close to? No. But she was someone who mattered in my life. I wanted to be with her more than Mama allowed. I guess even as a child I was seeking relationships with people, wanting conversation, a different world view.
I still want those things, but they seem harder to find. Thankfully, I have room to carry memories of Mrs. Wildharber and many other important people who’ve played on the stage of my life. And I do feel the loss, but it seems there’s no other option..