I send jokes to some. I send inspiration to others. To a select few, I send both. It depends on the person. I scroll through my list of contacts, picking names as I go.
“Oh! This person will love this joke!” I smile, click, and scroll on.
“Yes! I know she will love this inspirational video!” I click and scroll down.
A contact name pops up. “They would love this one, if they were still here.”
It’s one of, sadly, a growing number of contacts in my email address book who are no longer with us.
The years pass. My list of friends grows and shrinks like the waves of an ocean. It undulates like the dunes of a desert. It changes, but I resist.
I scroll through my list of contacts/friends. There’s Sheryl. She loved a good joke and was my best friend when I lived in Ohio. We were neighbors. Sheryl and I often stood on our adjoining patios in the condo complex, shared drinks, laughs, and sorrows. We both moved to other states, but talked often on the phone.
I sent her a joke one day. At work the next day, I received a reply from her sister. Sheryl was gone. I put my head in my hands and cried at my desk in the office. It’d been a few months since we last talked on the phone. I thought of calling her the weekend before, but didn’t. She was struck down with a stroke at the age of forty-nine that very weekend. I often wonder if she reached out to me in her last minutes.
There’s Jack. We called him Hogie. We worked together for fifteen years. He still lived in Nova Scotia. I moved around the continent, but we still communicated through email fifteen years after I left. After retiring, Hogie sought his dream. He started a vineyard. The man loved his wine. It was a dream he reached. Last year I received and email from his wife. Hogie didn’t come in from the fields. She found him dead in the seat of his tractor. His heart gave out in the middle of his field of dreams.
I come to Sandra’s name. Sandra lives still, but her husband Willie doesn’t. He was one of the best Internet friends I ever had. He wrote the most beautiful stories. Don’t be fooled though. Willie had a warped side to him. Many of his stories would make Stephen King run and hide under his covers. Willie was a master of the craft. His life was cut short by skin cancer.
I worked night shifts. Willie couldn’t sleep because of injuries he received in the line of duty as a policeman. He’d be up early. We laughed so hard at each other’s foolishness. I hoped to meet him one day, but it never happened. Willie’s gone.
There are other names on my list that have moved on. I weep, but not because they are gone. They’re in a better place now. I weep for my own selfish reason—I miss them.
I ask myself, “Why do I leave them in my contact list?”
It’s because, each time I scroll through my list, I see their names, pause, smile, shed a tear, and remember them. It’s my chance to reflect on our friendships and say, “Thank you for the time you shared with me. One day we’ll meet again.”