Remembering a Friend, Forever Young

“May you stay forever young…” Forever Young, Bob Dylan

“Eonia i Mnimi (Eternal Memory)” -Greek Orthodox Funeral Chant/Hymn

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Maine coast, morning fog

In the holiday season and as the year is drawing to a close, a paradoxical melancholy creeps in amidst the celebrations and holiday cheer. We take even a brief moment to pause and reflect on the past year and on past holidays. It is a good time to dwell a little while with those memories.

At this time of year, social media is rife with posts and alerts reminding us all to be kind and gentle, sensitive to those around us who are in pain. There are many for whom the holidays bring no joy, no cheer, and symbolize stress and loss. We are asked to be on alert for those who may be in crisis instead of celebration.

In health care, it seems as if this time of year ushers in a spike of tragedy. More stress over more severe illness, more sadness over profound losses. It seems more acute, more raw, more shocking, as these sad events play out in stark contrast to the festivities celebrating the joy and cheer of the holidays around us. Even if the numbers don’t bear this out (though they might), it is this sharp contrast between joy and grief that etch these memories more deeply in our minds.

These memories color our reflections of the holidays. They are good reminders to be aware and sensitive to those around us.

Today’s musings are more personal than medical.

I have just lost a high school friend to breast cancer. She died on Thanksgiving day, at home, surrounded by her family. I’m told she was at peace with this. She was originally diagnosed 8 years ago, and had done well after her treatment. Then, it returned as metastatic disease to her brain. This time, as so commonly happens, the cancer prevailed. Unaware of her illness, I had hoped to see her again at some upcoming reunion, or bump in to her on the street as I have in the past. I had hoped there would be a chance to reconnect. I remembered running in to her in the hospital where I was on rotation (either in medical school or residency), and enjoyed that brief chance to catch up. I remember seeing her at reunions. She stayed in touch with her closest high school friends over the years, and they have shared some of their memories of her. I am as grateful for that as much as I am saddened that I did not have the chance to reconnect myself.

I have been reaching out and reconnecting with family and old friends. It is one of the benefits, even blessings, of the internet and social media. It is possible now, not difficult and daunting as in older times. It has been too easy, if not inevitable, for old ties to loosen and slip away. Medical school, residency training, practice, each so all-consuming. But that will be a topic for discussion another day.

I remarked recently to a Facebook friend, during an exchange over reconnection, that it is never too late to reconnect. Was I wrong?

Perhaps not.

am too late to exchange a hug or a handshake. Too late to catch up over a coffee, or a beer, or a bottle of wine. Reminisce as we sit at around a table, then plan to stay in touch. Staying in touch even if our paths don’t intersect, but can be brought in parallel so that we can share with each other as we move forward, even if we are in separate worlds, traveling along different paths.

But it is never too late to conjure up my old friend, all of my friends, in memory. Really, we do that all the time, both the living and the dead. Keeping old friends in mind, the old memories and the new. It is just that with the living, there is the chance to add to that archive of memories.

In a way, we really only live in the past. If you think about it, each sensation or experience can only be perceived in those short moments after it actually happens. If something alters that perception, such as a head injury or anesthetic, it is as if it never happened. At least as far as memory, the experience, goes. That is how it has felt to me, with my own experiences with anesthesia and head injury.

So, yes, it is never too late to reconnect, as long as we can connect to our memories.

I invite us all, then, during this time of year when we reflect over the past and anticipate the new year; during this time of celebration and holidays for so many cultures and religions; this time when friends and family, colleague and coworkers gather to celebrate –

To invite also the old friends, the ones we have lost. Remember them, as a part of the reflections and celebrations this time of year. Miss them, honor them, appreciate them. Keeping them alive, and always with us, forever young in our minds.

So, Lisa, I remember you. Full of life, always at a mile-a-minute, making the Energizer Bunny look like a slug. Talking faster than I could hear. Always seeming cheerful and upbeat, a positive attitude. I am told this never changed. And though we did see each other a bit as grown-ups, in my mind’s eye, I see you as that dynamo from Junior High and High School. And I will remember that Lisa, full of life and vitality with her future ahead of her. You will remain forever young.

Remembering Lisa. And Carter, Sharon, Rob, Neal, Todd. To Paige, Marc, Marcus. My old friends, forever young.

Eternal Memory.

lyrics, Forever Young, Bob Dylan

9 thoughts on “Remembering a Friend, Forever Young

  1. Marc says:

    Thanks Kathy for a touching recollection. I’ve lost so many close friends and colleagues to aircraft mishaps over the years that I know, logically, that death is a part of life. Emotionally however, it stings every time. It stings a little harder when it comes to someone who, outwardly, appeared to love life as much as Lisa did. Bubbly would be an understatement. Similar to what Andy said, although it’s been decades, I can see her walking home from school, excitedly discussing the topic of the day – and that brings a big smile to my face. At risk of being cliché, it was a privilege to have known her! To be honest, most of the people I remember from Hoover and Churchill were exceptional in one way or another. We were unbelievably fortunate to have grown up in a time and place so full of talent, promise and capability. Again, I feel very fortunate to have lived my wonder years there. Thanks for posting this and sharing it!

    • Krista says:

      Kathy– so well put. Living in the present– or actually i a second after the present 😉
      But reaching out, connecting and appreciating always….

      Please share your paragraph ie Lisa’s energy and spirit on her memorial website– LovingLisa.com

      Thank you
      krista

    • Dr. Kathy Hughes says:

      Thanks, Marc, for sharing – it seems we all share a similar sentiment. Remembering Lisa and, by doing so, being reminded of the special times when we were all in each other’s orbits.

      Be well!

  2. AndyS says:

    James Joyce captured all of this so well in his short story, The Dead.


    His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.

    A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

    Around the holidays, I like to watch John Huston’s film adaption of this story (but my wife thinks I’m being too depressive, so I usually have to watch it alone – which, I suppose, is fitting).

  3. AndyS says:

    Since I heard news of Lisa’s death last week, I’ve been having very similar thoughts. And, I pretty much ended up at the same place with regard to self/memory.

    Basically, I’ve been contemplating the question: why does the loss of someone from such a long time ago have such an impact? It does for me. And, my wife has had similar experiences this year, too, after hearing of the death of someone she knew from her school days. So, I ‘m assuming this is not uncommon.

    I hadn’t seen (or even consciously thought about) Lisa for decades, and yet, after hearing of her death, I experienced profound sadness. And, I ended up spending a good bit of time recalling memories from days at Lake Normandy (and Hoover/WCHS as well, but mostly Lake Normandy). I was rather amazed at some of the detailed memories that were still around (e.g., the tie-dyed shirts we made for the soccer teams at Lake Normandy – we were blue). My conclusion is/was that this particular type of loss (the loss of someone from a young age, and of whose memories are – mostly, if not exclusively – of our lives at a young age) really is like losing a piece of one’s childhood – and thus, losing a formative part of one’s self – since as you noted above, Kathy, self is so much defined by memory.

    And, yes, she (and all of us from that time & place) will be forever young.

  4. Harley says:

    There is an expression in the Jewish tradition that exemplifies this spirit and one I use far to frequently these days- “May thier memories forever be a blessing”

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