Documenting the value of human interaction
“Oh, no! We forgot to get a selfie for my selfie project,” I messaged.
“That’s ok. We can get it next time,” he replied.
The “next time,” he was in a casket. I took it hard. Really hard. Roy had been my friend since childhood. Our families have been interconnected for four generations; since the mid 1960s. His parents knew me before I was even born.
In 1978, when my family moved from Indiana to Tennessee, Roy and I were 3rd and 4th graders. A few days before the big move, we spent Sunday evening fellowshipping at his house after church. There were six brothers, five still at home, plus me and my sister, and a whole passel of other kids playing games and hanging out. At some point, Roy and I had a serious conversation.
He: “You’re moving to Tennessee?”
Me: “Yeah, for four years.”
As an eight-year-old, I thought my parents would complete college in four years, and then we would move back home. I didn’t understand that it would most likely take longer, or that life might take us elsewhere.
He: “How far away is that?”
Me: “Four hundred miles.”
He: “I’ll be in eighth grade when you get back.”
Me: “And I’ll be in seventh.”
He: “That’s a really long time...”
We shared a quiet moment of contemplation before returning to the other kids. That moment has stayed with me throughout the years. He was the only kid my age who acknowledged that I would be missing from his life.
I didn’t move back to Indiana until I was nineteen, but we had visited a couple of times a year, and our families always got together.
We each married young and had families of our own. I saw him around town from time to time, at the grocery store, or restaurants, or events at the high school our children attended together. It was always comforting to look up and see his smiling face.
A few short summers ago, I was standing in line at Dairy Queen when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned but, just like when we were kids, Roy was being a jokester, and was standing on the opposite side. We laughed, but there was a sadness to him. As we sat together eating lunch, he shared that he had recently divorced.
The following year, when I found myself going through the same thing, he reached out to encourage me. He had found happiness, and he assured me that I would, too.
The last time I saw him, I had stopped at a local car lot to check out a Dodge Charger. I was startled to hear a voice behind me, “That car would look good on you!”
I turned to find Roy smiling that warm, all-encompassing smile.
“I see you about every morning,” he said, “and I always think one of these days I will catch up and say hi.”
We talked for a few minutes. He updated me on his mom, his work, life in general. He asked how I was doing with the divorce, and I thanked him for his encouragement.
We went our separate ways, and then I remembered the selfie.
“Next time,” he said…next time.
I will forever cherish the fact that he took time to stop that day, and I will always regret that there wasn’t a next time.
After leaving the funeral, my sister and I had a beer and spent time reminiscing.
“I didn’t get the selfie,” I lamented.
“Let’s take a picture right now,” she suggested.
I retrieved the “In Memory” card from my purse, and as we raised a toast, I snapped the shot. It serves as a stark reminder of why I started the selfie project in the first place. Life is short. Too short. I want to create a memory with each person I know, even if it’s only long enough to get a quick picture together. As evidenced by my exchange with Roy at the car lot, human interaction, spending time face-to-face with others, even briefly, holds great value.