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Neglectful Me

December 29, 2007

I am neglectful. I neglect all kinds of things. It’s one of the things I hate about me. Case in point: I went to a memorial service today. I neglected to bring tissue. Who even thinks about leaving the house for a memorial service without bringing tissue?

But there I was in the middle of the church, at a memorial for a dear friend I grew up with, and no tissue.

But that’s not the worst part: There was this point in the service where people were asked if they wanted to share something about my friend. I had plenty of things to share. We grew up together after all. But I had neglected to prepare my thoughts. When my thoughts are not organized in advance I don’t think I do well, trip over my words, forget to say important stuff and say stuff that doesn’t really matter. So I didn’t say anything at all. But that was neglectful, too – maybe it would have blessed my friend’s family and other friends if I’d have said something, even if I wasn’t prepared.

But I didn’t say anything. Because of the even worse part: I hadn’t seen my friend in years. Hadn’t even been in touch. Maybe even 20 years. A long time. Way too long. I’ve kept in touch with her parents, so I could have kept in touch with her. I didn’t say anything because I’d neglected our friendship since high school. Who wants to hear about Blue Birds and Campfire Girls, and Youth Camp, and Outdoor School when it was oh, so long ago? And I had nothing to say about her after we graduated. Because I didn’t know her. She used to be a really good friend. She’d probably have been a really good friend the last 20 years, too, if I’d have cared to keep in touch

And here’s the worst part of all: She is the third friend to die this year. The first, my best friend from my late teens/early 20’s and beyond, died earlier this year. We’d lost touch, too, and we lived within 10 miles of each other. A broken fence we never mended. Then she died. And I thought, “I’m going to get in touch with other friends with whom I’ve lost contact.” And mend broken fences. Then my best friend from grade school died after Thanksgiving. I’d not seen her since high school, either. She kept in touch with my mom, though. Then last week my friend, who had the memorial today, died also. Two more friends I could have reconnected with. Who continues to neglect old friends when they get so many reminders??

I have another friend – we’d been best friends from grade school until well past high school. But we hadn’t talked for two years. Or more. I called her last night to tell her about our two friends who died this month, and about the memorial service today. We chatted a bit and I learned that her dad, with whom she was very close, died a couple of years ago. And she was divorced earlier this year after 20 years of marriage. And she was selling her house and moving. And that I had missed so much of her life. Important things in her life, and I was not there for her.

Neglect is awful. You can’t take it back. You can’t undo it. What’s missed is missed.

I used to dream I owned a horse. (As a child I always wanted a horse.) And in the dream I forgot that I owned a horse until I was romping around the woods out back of my childhood home and stumbled upon a neglected horse stall, inside of which was my starving horse. Oh the anguish – I had a horse! My very own horse! And I’d forgotten completely about him, neglected him, and there he was half dead.

I think my dream was a prophecy. Perhaps God was trying to tell me earlier in my life to remember the important things, to tend to the things I value, and to not forget. But I forgot anyway. Maybe God is also trying to tell me that the horse isn’t dead yet. My three friends are. (Well, not really, they are more alive than they have ever been, and I know I’ll see them again.) But maybe there is hope for me yet. Maybe there are other relationships I need to be mindful of, jealous for, attentive to.

I will make it a New Year’s Resolution to think of things I’ve neglected. And do something about it. I certainly won’t neglect to bring tissue to a memorial service again…

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