When I was ...

Rick Ryckeley's picture

When I was small, my best friend suddenly stopped coming around to play. Mom said, “He’s moved on to a better place.”

Being 5 and all, I thought that meant his family had moved to the Duke of Gloucester. That’s where all the rich people lived. And if you asked any of them, it was a much better place than Flamingo Street. I was wrong.

His family did leave Flamingo Street, but it wasn’t because they wanted to live on the Duke. They left because the memories of their only child filled the house. It was a loss too great for his parents to bear.

When all else is gone, for better or worse, memories of ones that have moved on still remain. They bring warmth to some hearts because of what was, and break other hearts because of what might have been.

When I was a little older, Sam dropped out of Old Mrs. Crabtree’s class. Sam was the richest kid at Mt. Olive Elementary. We all thought he was on another vacation to some distant and exciting land. We were wrong.

Mrs. Crabtree told us that Sam had “passed on” and was in a better place. Bully Brad blurted out, “How do you know he’s in a better place? He’s dead.” Brad’s screams echoed down the hallway as Mrs. Crabtree dragged him to the office by his ear.

Strange, it was the very same question I was going to ask. I guessed it comforted Sam’s parents to believe he was indeed in a better place. Besides, at the time, I really didn’t know where Sam was or where he ended up. Who was I to argue about such things? I was just a kid in the third grade.

When I was at Auburn University, everyone was so full of life. We all thought we were invincible. Although Death often visited the campus, students rarely spoke about it. If one of us had proven they were not invincible, that meant the rest of us weren’t either. That was a concept our young minds could not fully comprehend.

When asked, our professors explained the act of dying simply as transitioning to another plane of existence. This we could accept. After all, another plane of existence, wherever it was, was still an existence. It wasn’t death. Besides who was I to argue. I was just a college kid.

Now that I’m over 50, I guess I look at death differently than most. At the end of life, it’s like being in a small room – one door has to close before another one opens. Only then can we walk through to the other side.

This week, Best Friend Mitch lost a loved one. She has walked through that final door. This will be his first Thanksgiving without his mother. Our prayers and thoughts are with him, his father, and their family.

The day will certainly be different, but he still has his memories of his time with her, and as long as we keep the memories of the people we love alive, they will indeed live forever.

On Thanksgiving, call or visit the ones that you love. Mend any broken fences and simply enjoy being alive. Our time together is short. Hug the kids and grandchildren and eat good home cooking. Savor life.

What I know now, I didn’t know when I was 5, couldn’t understand when I was in third grade and didn’t want to believe when I was in college.

No matter how much we don’t want it to, one day our life will also transition and memories will be all our loved ones have of us.

This holiday make memories with your family and friends that will last them forever.

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