There are people you meet at various points in your life who affect you in such a way that, even when you separate and pursue different paths and lose touch, you are happy having known them. When people mention these people, you’ll say something like, “Oh, he’s a good guy,” or, “Yeah, we used to be good friends.” Even though you haven’t seen or spoken to each other in years, simply knowing they’re out in the world, living, will bring you comfort.
Unfortunately, you will be unaware of those people’s effects on you until they are gone.
One of those people, for me, was named Tim, and today I have been made startling aware of the effect he had on me. I learned earlier today that Tim has passed away,
I met Tim when we were 5 years old. We both had older brothers playing on the same little league baseball team, and we both had to be brought along to that team’s practice. I was a pretty shy kid back then, but Tim—outgoing, happy, and infectiously friendly—saw me, another boy his age, and took the opportunity to make a new friend. He introduced himself, asked me my name, and asked if I wanted to play with him that night. This was the first time anyone had ever done that. Any time after that, whenever my brother had a game, I knew I’d be seeing my new friend, and I looked forward to goofing off with Timmy.
We started kindergarten and eventually went through high school together. During our formative years, we went separate ways. I think the last time I spoke to him was after our senior prom. I don’t even really remember what we talked about, though I do remember discussing those old childhood memories.
As I mentioned before, knowing Tim was somewhere out there in the world was comforting. But what do you do when they aren’t anymore?
I’m the kind of person who looks to literature to make sense of my own life. I believe that fiction can help us derive understanding in the real world—especially when something happens that just doesn’t make any sense at all.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite novels—a book called Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. In the novel, Vonnegut describes a people who experience and describe time in a way that is quite different from our current understanding. When we consider time, we think of a line: something begins, then it ends. I began writing this post, and then I stopped. Linear. Vonnegut’s story gives us another understanding of time—one in which sequences are infinite. I will have always written this post. There will never be a time when I have not written this post. You will have always read this, and there’s no way to unread it.
This is how I’m making sense of this tragedy.
Tim King will always have lived. He will always have been my friend.
I’d rather live in a world in which Tim King will always have lived. It’s much better that way.