Posted by: kgnarlym | February 27, 2014

Elementary Education

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about an old friend of mine, and realizing that he was never really a friend, but rather a Teacher, a Guru, if you will.

Jakov Torlakovic was a classmate of mine, and not someone I knew well at all. He was just there, as far as I was concerned. However, I became “friends” with him perhaps a few days, weeks, or maybe it was months, before his birthday.

His parents threw him an early birthday party because they knew, he knew, that he would not have another birthday. Jakov had leukemia. He had one last chance to savor Life’s little, Life’s only, luxuries.

I attended that birthday party, and recall it being a largely happy occaison, all things considered. Maybe us kids were just naive. Maybe we all understood. In any case, it was neat to have a new friend, but somewhat tragic because he would be gone before we would ever have a chance to hang out.

Looking back at the situation, I get the sense that I was pretty cognizant of the facts. I remember thinking it a bit odd to be buying presents when it was understood that they wouldn’t be in use in a matter of days or weeks. It sounds a bit callous, but I guess I have always had a very pragmatic, utilitarian perspective that still persists to this day.

It’s possible that a part of me feels guilty about having that thought back then, but lately I find myself wondering if perhaps he and I would have actually been really good friends, given a more typical timeline.

In any case, I am realizing just how powerful the impact of this brief and fleeting friendship has been on me.

I’ve long had a peculiar fascination with Death, and have always been able to think about it so intellectually, so detatched and seemingly accepting of it. Probably because at that tender age I was confronted with the Truth. Nobody stays forever, some of us will be gone well before sixth grade.

I once stood in the kitchen, maybe around age 8 at most, and held a knife and considered the ramifications of using it to take my own life. I wasn’t depressed or feeling suicidal; it was more like a thought-experiment, facing mortality. You know, typical kid stuff.

I have, over the years, recalled that moment often, but only very recently thought about a possible connection to the lesson young Jakov presented to me.

And to be Truthful, I don’t know that I ever really grieved on a conscious level over that loss. I think I took the detatched and intellectualized route then because it was a natural way of processing it, and only years later did the emotional impact begin to insist on being recognized, if misinterpreted or mishandled along the way.

In so many ways, it has been a radical blessing to view Death from that distanced vantage. I find at least as much curiosity in regard to Death as I find Fear.

But I hadn’t until these last several days linked it all together. That fascination, the intellectualizing, the acceptance, was there early on because Death was there early on.

It was a whirlwind relationship. An entire novel, condensed into a single tweet. The rise and fall, in one bittersweet brushtroke.

Today, in This Moment, I am overflowing with grattitude. I didn’t see it then; I didn’t see it for more than twenty years, but there was a powerful lesson in that young boy’s brave march into dissolution of the body.

I hadn’t the words or constructs to effectively grapple with it then, and maybe I still don’t in some very important ways, but I recognize now that this brief friendship was indeed more of a mentorship. The most important lessons I continue to learn are just reviews of the course material I received back then.

If that boy can smile and laugh his way through a party, while staring down the final frontier, the one which grown men and even the strongest inherently fear, then who are we to be careless with This Time? Who are we to waste this Life?

Would the petty complaints persist if we were celebrating our birthday early, knowing we wouldn’t make it to the next lap?

Every moment is precious. They all count. Meet them with grattitude, bliss, and peace.

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