I guess it’s too much to ask to expect people to stay where you left them. Even my keys sometimes wander off and because I need them I search everywhere, even in the unlikely places, empting closets, and leaving a trail of disruption to mark my path. The keys always show up though, right where I left them.
A long time ago my path diverged, not through snowy woods, but certainly down a road less taken and my friends of those days went on down the path meant for them. One I couldn’t stay on.
I didn’t hunt for them, like I do for my keys, because our paths had split too far apart, but now and then I wondered what they were up to. Occasionally I uncovered a name I knew while searching the internet for something else. Which is a bit like finding a key that goes to a house you don’t live in anymore.
Today I learned that someone, whose friendship from those days I cherish, died a few years ago. The most comforting thing about this is that the friends we shared back then were all there for him during his illness and final days. They are still there on their journey, having traveled together past many milestones, while I continued to see them in situ at the crossroads where we parted.
I can mourn who you were, the lovely, charming, playful man I left at that fork in the road. It’s much, much harder to mourn the man you became, the one I didn’t get to meet. That man who moved mountains and uncovered every stone searching for humanity’s past and then suffered through a long painful illness. All I know about him now is that he was well loved.