The other day, I went looking for a friend I met during my university days, one I had lost touch with after years of companionship. I looked him up on the internet and discovered to my dismay that he had passed away some 11 years ago. I was too late to hear his story from his own lips. I was too late to tell him my story from my own lips to his conscious mind. I felt robbed of something I felt I was entitled to. Up until the moment I learned of his fate, he was very much alive for me.
Recently, an acquaintance of my Bride’s, someone I had gotten to know through her, a person we had been visiting because of an illness, died in hospital. She unexpectedly took a turn for the worse and, in the space of seven days, had changed from someone we had been conversing with, to a mere body. I am not a stranger to this phenomenon, having lost a spouse similarly to a lingering disease, but I was shocked at this sudden transition.
I am long since retired from being an active presence in an enterprise. I recently gave up being an active manager of my own financial affairs. What I have evolved into during the last decade or so is being a teller of stories. I am still very busy at that. One of my greatest pleasures is to hear from one of my correspondents that I have expressed for them their very thoughts, if only they had put a pen to them.
All of us have stories we want to tell. We all have lots to say, lots we wish to say. Often, we do not go to the trouble of communicating our thoughts and experiences. Too often, our stories die with us. I think that is a pity. I am trying my best to ensure I am not guilty of that.
It has been a long time since my thoughts have been shared with millions of listeners. It has been many years since mine was a household name. Little matter! Though my stories, as of late, have been shared with only a few, my pleasure is gained in the telling. And in the rare responses of some of my fellows. And in the continuing hope that I leave some residues of thought here and there. That is my immortality. (Not true, of course, as I have been blessed with progeny, but you know what I mean.)
These days, death stalks us with every breath we take. The “us” I speak of are those among us who often have more stories to tell than our younger companions, by virtue of our having been around longer. We seem to be more vulnerable to the rampant virus seeking a place for replication in the air we breathe, and this vulnerability is a reminder of how important it is to take the trouble to share some of the riches many of us have dearly accumulated. The stories we have not yet told die with us.
I am highlighting this part of our mission in life. We have held a job and hopefully it contributed something. It gave us a livelihood, which may have allowed us to raise a family and accumulate something material to pass on. We may have shared things and thoughts with others, publicly and privately. We may have enriched our own lives and the lives of others. We have stories to tell. Wouldn’t it be a pity not to share them with others? Surely there are valuable secrets in that treasure chest! Even the things you may not be proud of may have paid off in valuable lessons that you made good use of.
There is a reason for us to survive the dangers around us a little longer. So, please, more masks, more handwashing, more social distancing! We need to hear your stories before you go. You owe it to your public. You owe it to yourself.
Max Roytenberg is a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.