Monday, July 31, 2006

Willem Visser - did I forget to say goodbye?

I wonder how many of us proscratinate. We proscrastinate about silly things. We procrastinate about semi-important things. And we proscrastinate about important things in our lives.

We procrastinate where people are concerned. And hold fast to our precious time, giving it a place in the highest echelons of our minds, people-procrastination is the most dangerous and unthinking thing we can possibly do.

To procrastinate is a sin, a spiritual crime. There is a universal law in place (for all of us) that says "do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today". And another that suggests we not let the sun go down on our anger or unresolved conflicts. Most laws are "for our own good". This could be debated to the end of time, but I believe in my heart that THIS law is definitely there to protect us. From ourselves. From our terrible selfish selves at times.

I remember well the time my precious grandfather passed away. He was senile and often mean. The only people who ever took the time to speak with him (not AT him) were 4 family members; his wife, my mother and her sister, and me. Everyone else avoided him as if he had an infectious disease. At the funeral, barely into my teens, I felt an enexplicable rage when I saw the church filled to the brim with weeping and mourning people. Including his son and the other grandchildren. I started to run, and I ran and ran until I collapsed with my grief and anger burning inside my 15 year old body. To this day I am contemptuous of funerals. It's too late to gnash your teeth and say kind words. Why don't people understand this? Dead. Gone. They don't need your throw away pity and rose-coloured remembrances of the past. For most of the black dressed mourners standing around in a funeral home, this an exercise of pure selfishness (or voyeursim?), and it turns my stomach. Let the FRIENDS of the deceased celebrate the life lost. Nobody else belongs there. Did they bother to say goodbye?

And yes, you always have a chance to say goodbye. When you put down the phone, when you leave after a cup of coffee, when you go to bed at night, when you leave for work in the morning - we all say goodbye. None of us can be so arrogant about the fagility of life to assume otherwise.

Willem Visser, a colleague and friend, was killed in a motorbike accident on July 15th. His body was eventually tracked to a morgue in Johannesburg. He had ALL his identification on him. They didn't contact the family. They contacted nobody. He lay there as a John Doe for 2 weeks.

I wonder how many people said "goodbye". I wonder if he even managed that.

For me in this instance, goodbye would have been a hug the last time I saw him, a congratulations on his last great project, a phone call every few days to say "are you ok?", saying "I appreciate the person you are". It's saying "let's do lunch", and actually doing it.

In our arrogance we forget to love. We forget to say "goodbye". And we are punished for this transgression when people we love are snatched away from us. And we all know this age-old theory so well. How can we be surprised, still, when it happens to us? I'm not talking about the shock and the sorrow that comes with a sudden young death, I'm talking about the guilt that sets in afterwards, the "why didn't I?" and the "I could have" thoughts that hound us.

A little while ago I said that I don't believe in "fate". I don't believe that everything "happens for a reason". I said that the biggest tragedy is when we don't walk away with a lesson learned.

I have no idea why it's taken me so long in my life to learn this lesson. Didn't I know it all before?

I will no longer proscrastinate with people who are meaningful in my life. I will never forget to say "goodbye".