Sometimes we don’t realize how much the current “us” exists because of the people we connect with in our lives. Often, this realization doesn’t occur until much later when many years have passed. Suddenly, in what feels like a blink of the eye, a decade or more comes between you and a friend you were once spending everyday of your formative years with.
There are no hard feelings. No falling out. Time progresses and before you know it, you are sitting there in a daze wondering how time went by so fast and how connections and friendships were lost.
Was it me?
Was it them?
Was anyone to blame?
Questioning and rationalization come into play as the mind wonders “What happened between us”?
Careers are formed.
Children are born.
It’s simply a matter of “how things work”.
If you’re lucky, the friends from your past, the really good ones, the ones you know “get” you and watched you become and understand who you are today, are the ones that after years and years, even with nonexistent communication, are the ones that when you finally do by chance bump into them, act as though you saw them yesterday.
This is what I had with my friend Milton.
For many of us, Milton was there during our most awkward of years. He watched us as teens try to figure out who we were and what we wanted to be. He stood by our sides as we tried new looks, new music, new personalities. He watched us cry. He watched us laugh. He offered support and always, ALWAYS,had our backs whether he agreed with us or not and empathized because he too was going through the same, but always put others first.
When I learned of his passing I was stunned. It did and still feels surreal. He was a huge part of what makes me who I am today. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around it. The more I think about him, the more difficult it is to comprehend.
At the same time, the I more think about him, the more I smile.
I smile because the very mention of his name always had that effect on me.
I smile because no matter how dire a situation was Milton was always a positive and happy soul who found the best in any given situation.
I smile because all of the wonderful memories that I shared with him immediately flood my mind.
I smile because that’s exactly what Milton always did, he made me smile, he made me laugh.
Words cannot truly describe the emotions and thoughts that are currently in my mind.
The loss of Milton feels as though I have lost a major part of myself, a portion of my history vanished.
Milton was a part of many of us during our most formative years and we are fortunate to be able to say we knew him. He took the time and effort, that many people don’t often give, to get to truly know and care for those around him.
Years had passed since I had seen him last. I often wondered about him and always smiled at the thought of him. As fate would have it, I was blessed with seeing him one last time, a little over a year ago.
He made the effort to come out to my brother’s comic book signing in our home town.
When he walked through the door my emotions immediately lifted. We chatted for over an hour as though no time had passed between us. Our humor meshed just a well as it did in high school. His genuineness still exuded from behind his bright blue eyes. That special connection we had was still there, unaltered.
He filled me in on the happiness with his wife.
He filled me in on the happiness with his step daughter.
He filled me in on how life was finally where he wanted it to be.
He was happy and so was I.
Even though we planned to get together for lunch, I knew the chances were slim.
Even though we planned on me meeting his family, I knew the chances of that were also slim.
But more than anything, regardless of our busy lives not allowing the above plans to happen, I knew without a doubt and wholeheartedly that he 100 % meant every word of what he said. That he honestly and genuinely had full intentions of having me be a part of his family’s life. That he had full intentions of getting to know mine.
We laughed a lot that day.
I’ll never forget the peace and happiness that I saw on his face when he talked about his life.
And even more so, I’m grateful that I was given the chance to see him one last time in his adult life.
Before we parted and made plans for a lunch that never happened he left me with one final thought as he turned to walk back to his car.
“Maryam,” he said “I’ll never forget what your father told me when I was 18.”
“What’s that?” I asked
“Distraction leads to destruction. He’s a smart man.”
“Peace be upon you.” were the last words I ever heard him say, as he got in his car and drove away.
Milton, my dear friend, you always were and always will be missed.