Sometimes a name from my sometimes checkered past will come into my head and I will google the person or look for them on Facebook. Sometimes I barely recognize the person; they've changed and morphed so much. And sometimes I am sorry I even started anything.
It happened with Karen, my friend from high school. Her name popped into my head one night after not being in contact for years, and I googled her and came upon the phrase "is survived by." The mind plays tricks and not wanting to believe it, I thought that it was her husband who'd died because it couldn't have been my Karen, the one I used to go bicycle riding with, the one I snuck onto the grounds of the JCC and planted a mysterious sign on the lawn with, the one I used to go to the airport to watch people with, the one who snuck me into her dorm room and to breakfast when I visited her in college, the once made scones that turned to charcoal with over a campfire in her backyard. That Karen, my Karen.
We went our separate ways after she'd married and had a child, but when she tried to reach out shortly after I moved to LA, I followed the advice of a boyfriend and never answered her. It was a foolish act of my youth.
I contacted her mother and husband and learned that she'd died of an illness a few years before. Her husband said that she wondered what happened to me and that I had no idea what she was going through or how much work her first child was. And no matter how many times I apologized to her family or went to synagogue to say kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, on her behalf, or how much I gave to charity in her beloved memory, I will never be able to live it down.
To comfort me, friends said that I would never do that now and that I wouldn't have done that if I'd known. And I can only hope it is true, but it still doesn't change anything or that I let her die wondering what happened to our friendship.
My curiosity getting the best of me, I recently googled someone I dated in my twenties named Dan. His last name was so unusual that the obit could only have belonged to him. Because he was a veterinarian, we once went behind the scenes at the Lincoln Park Zoo and passed by the cage of a sick lion. "He's going to pounce," said Dan as the ailing cat eyed us, though we moved on before it did. We drifted apart and I later learned that he'd started dating someone he met through me, the scoundrels. I'd long forgotten about his twenty-year old's dalliance by the time I googled him and read his obit.
I know that things happen the way that they are supposed to, but keep getting reminded that life really is all the more precious.
So here's to you, Karen and Dan. The world was a better place for your having passed through it and your presence brightened my life. May you both rest in peace. Amen.