Yet another note popped up in the email a few weeks ago, alerting me that one more classmate had taken his final breath. The pace accelerates as we age and it’s cold comfort that I’m the reader, not the subject, of the message. It’s just one more reminder that the bell will run out of other people to toll for one of these days.
As is almost always the case, I remembered the departed only vaguely and hadn’t spoken to him in at least five decades, so I searched online for the latest deletion from our reunion list. It turns out the guy was well known to other classmates, and not in a good way.
One after another, they recalled growing tired of him, fed up with his political intolerance, giving up on any useful engagement and, ultimately, had blocked him on social media. It was brutal, because you cannot “confide” anything online. Many of his online posts weren’t visible when I checked, so I still don’t know much about the guy, but it’s public record now that he was disliked by many onetime friends.
All the posthumous slings and arrows can do no harm to their target, of course. He’s beyond the point of knowing or caring about his favorability ratings. His family and friends could be saddened by the outpouring of, um, whatever the opposite of grief is, but he is blissfully immune.
That’s now, though, in the after, and this post is about before.
For him, for everyone, there absolutely is a before. There’s a time when the world is more open, when friends and strangers offer the benefit of the doubt and a willing ear. In the days before, the world is larger and more varied, more interesting and less predictable. Before, there is possibility and opportunity for us to accept…or reject.
Every day, we make a choice about how big and open our world will be, how lively and interesting our conversations will be, how much we’ll be challenged to expand our perspectives and build our wisdom. Some choose to grow, while others choose a path that is smaller, more limited, more constrained.
I really don’t know the details about this guy, but we know the process. We’ve all watched friends dissolve into humorless, angry warriors, sacrificing their own before for a new reality and a new persona.
In the time before, my onetime friend made a choice, or several choices, to take on a new crusade and dissolve the ties that bound him to the world he’d known. Perhaps he was happier in his new surroundings, more certain of his own worth and his rightness. Almost certainly, he was insulated from those who would challenge his view of the world and of himself.
I don’t really know, and it really doesn’t matter now, at least for him. For the rest of us, though, it’s still before. How big do we want our worlds to be? How much do we want to grow? How many people will we block—and how many will block us—on our journey from before to after?
We won't be posting about the inevitable next email, but maybe we'll say something interesting anyway. You'll be the first to know if you click here to subscribe.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.