Friends Come and Go

I began writing this blog soon after I finished the last one, which was almost a week by now, but for various reasons and as had happened so many times before, it stayed on the hard disc until now.

A week ago, I had news that two friends had just departed, and that both were not related to COVID-19. One was a classmate from the undergrad days, or over half a century ago; and the other an ex-colleague in the Civil Service. Both were of my age. The first was from the Class of 1966 or the Class of 1969, depending on whether one counts from the start or finish. It was not a huge class, with just about 30 and only a third being boys. She was a quiet, cheerful, kind, diligent and the most helpful in the group, and brilliant too. She became a teacher after graduation and later went with her husband to settle in Canada. She had not been too well in the last few years and her husband reported that she passed away after two weeks in ICU. As the more organized amongst our classmates circulated old photos, so much memories came back; and the situation was made sadder because of the lockdown in the city where they were. We then recall that was the sixth loss from our Class.  As to the ex-colleague, I came to know him in the Eighties as a hardworking and conscientious person. We were not very close; but I well remember him.

Then two days ago, an old friend whom I had not met for a few years called after dinner. She did not waste time talking about the weather and went straight to the point that her husband was very sick and that the readings were not good. Our two families had been very close when the children were small and we used to visit each other very often. It was only in the past five years or so that we had not met up somehow. My last effort to re-connect was about three years before, but we couldn’t set up a meeting, not even an afternoon tea session. My last message to him was something along the lines that we would meet some other time. I called up a common friend afterwards and yesterday we went together to see this longtime friend in the hospital. He was very weak and looked tired, but it could be the effect of the lunch he had just finished. He could not speak a lot, but the mind appeared to be alert. His two sons were in the ward and updated us on their Dad’s situation.  He had been through a course of chemotherapy two weeks ago and some vital organs had become very weak.

Such is the way our lives have been working, that we would meet up with so many people, make friends with some amongst them, do things together and maybe have many good times with a few, but would see them come and go eventually in the same way that the rest of the world would watch each of us come and go. I lost count of the occasions when we said goodbye to each other after a meeting, somewhat casually, only to find out years later that it was the real and final goodbye.

I recall what a friend said to me once. It was not original. He was in the insurance business and he read it from a training tape. It went something like this, “Work hard, live hard, go to many funerals, and live a full life,” which is a variation of what every Zen Master has always said, “Live for the present moment.”

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