Friday, April 27, 2007

People We Miss

We're sure you've thought of it. The time for things to come to an end. A time for things to be brought to a close. It's one of the fundamental truths for all things in life, just as there must be a finish to every race you run.

And we're sure, too, that you've also realized that, for better or for worse, you finish the race very different from how you started.

The beginning of a race is a single crowded frenetic mass of bodies and nerves and energy packed together, jostling tightly against each other in eager anticipation of the race, thrashing for position and impatient to begin. Most of the time, you're just one of many, a nameless face among nameless faces, each one as anonymous as any other, entranced in the silence before the starting gun. Some of the time, you'll see faces and know their names, and they won't be anonymous but rather special, their voices clear in the early morning darkness. Ultimately, however, beneath the sky and upon the earth as witness, you'll all just be the same: a huddled teeming mass all clasped together awaiting destiny.

But once the starting gun goes off, things change. Everyone surges forward in an explosion of released expectations, and the experiences accelerate in a rush of sensations. Everything becomes a single overwhelming continuous cascading blur of sight and sound and smell and touch and effort and emotion. In the chaos, in the maelstrom, things begin to happen. Navigation becomes confused, equipment breaks, accidents arise, injuries are sustained, suffering is inflicted. And people are lost.

But you won't know. You'll be too pre-occupied, too engrossed--too obsessed--with just moving forward.

You won't know, until you get to the finish, and look around, and start taking your tally of the missing and the dead.

And that's when you'll realize that there are fewer people at the finish than when you all began. That's when you'll notice that there are fewer faces to be seen and fewer names to be called...and that among them are ones that are painfully familiar.

These are the ones that will affect you the most. Because they were special, and their voices were clear. And the fact that they didn't make it will affect you in ways deeper than you could ever have imagined.

You finish the race different than when you started. You finish the race changed from what you were before. But some people you'll never see again.

Oh, you won't stop racing--because what then would be point of living your life? But each time you reach the finish, each time you cross the tape and hear your name and get your prizes, each time you stop and collect your breath and look around, you'll know that there are people you've forgotten you will wish you could remember, people that you remember that you will always miss, and people that are missing that should be there.

And in the races that mean the most, you'll find yourself wishing for the people that meant the most. But you will only see them in memories and dreams.

And this will never change. For all the ways a race will make you different, for all the ways it will make you change. It's the ones you look for but can't find that mark your races the most. There are just some people you will always think about.

Especially at the finish.

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