Forgetting to RememberBy Michael Temple
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An obituary picture of Norman’s smiling face stared back at me, and I gulped. One thought kept invading my mind; “How could I not have known about this?” His daughter had private-messaged me on Facebook in June of 2015, but for reasons that I still don’t understand, I hadn’t gotten the note. He had been diagnosed with kidney cancer in October of 2014, and a short seven months later, he was gone. He was 65 at the time of his death.
Norm was an easy-going guitar player that I had met while living in New England in the 1980s. He was 14 years my senior, but we were kindred spirits in our love of music. My next door neighbor Shirley had always told me, “You need to meet my son, he plays in a band.” We met, our personalities connected, and his group needed another guitarist. I joined them. He was a steady family man with a wife and two children. I was a newlywed in my 20s...a wild and crazy kid who was trying to discover my purpose in life. We played psychedelic ‘60s music on the weekend, and we spoke frequently on the phone about our plans to take our musical passion to the next level.
It wasn’t long before the '60s act disbanded, but he and I started a rock duo, playing small clubs and parties in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. My wife and I drove the 85 miles to Norm’s home almost every weekend. We became friends with his family and we spent many happy hours tweaking our “sound.” If we weren’t in a club getting paid to play, we were jamming for free in his garage or in a spare bedroom of his house where he had a small studio set up. Music was our “common ground” and we enjoyed each other’s friendship.
A few years went by, I got restless, and we moved away. There were a few phone calls and a visit or two, but as surely as summer moves almost imperceptibly into autumn, he and I grew apart. We were still friends but without playing music together, there just didn’t seem to be much that we could talk about that kept each other’s interest. I found a relationship with God, my wife and I had three children, and our new lives took us far from the ones that we had previously become accustomed to.
It’s strange how some people become just a smiling memory, but with my new-found faith, my family obligations, and the distance between us, Norman became “someone that I used to know.” I should’ve stayed in better contact with him...but I didn’t. I claim to be a Christian, but the irony of it all hits me harder than I want to admit to myself.
I talk about building relationships with others so that I might have the opportunity to introduce them to my friend Jesus, but I absolutely blew that opportunity with my friend. Maybe he wouldn’t have been interested in anything spiritual…but I didn’t even try. Perhaps it’s because my former life was so painfully out-of-control that I didn’t want to re-visit that relationship with Norm, but as I stared at his obituary, I couldn’t stop the pang of remorse in my heart…for leaving it undone.