Somewhere in the world today, a friend of mine turned 45. It's strange for me to think of a contemporary of mine actually being that old, in the first place, and strange again for me to think of the fact that I haven't heard from this friend in 15 years.
Once upon a time, my life was deeply impacted by his presence in my life. It was a case of God writing straight with the crooked lines drawn by me and others, but God is expert at things like that. It was because of the way his journey intersected with mine that I learned the truth of a song popular in those days that went like this: Love is sacrifice/To live love/To give love/It means laying down your life/Like Jesus.
He was both instrumental in my conversion to Catholicism and instrumental in my understanding of just how deeply another person could feel alienation from God. His presence in my life taught me to begin opening myself, giving myself to another.
The way I learned to finally love this person was like a wound opening up in my heart, a sort of portal to embracing, in his pain, the pain echoed through the whole world.
Because of this I'll never forget him. Every few years, around May, I check the Social Security Death Index to make sure he's still alive. I always expect that one day I will see him again.