Yesterday, I received a package that was like a gut punch. I’m the head of a local professional organization, and one of our members sent me a bunch of odd-and-ends personal memorabilia with a note stating that he and his partner had decided to end their lives, at their home, after valiantly battling AIDS for 34 years.
My head swam, and tears sprang into my eyes, though I didn’t know this person well, and I am all for this sort of autonomous, peaceful passing. I kept thinking, Why me?? Why did this person choose ME to reach out to? I haven’t been particularly friendly or emotionally available–why does this person feel this connection to write to ME of all people?
I texted my husband and called this person immediately, hoping I wasn’t too late, not knowing what his timetable was. We had a lovely chat, which was rather circular and didn’t get into any of the specifics of the note or the package. I hung up a little confused, with no more answers than I’d started.
Later, I realized that while I don’t feel a connection to him, he certainly feels one to me. Perhaps it’s the occasional smiles I give at professional functions, or that he’s seen me on videos and social media for the organization. Perhaps it’s my monthly newsletters that feel personal to him. I am touched and honored that he feels some kind of connection.
I spent this morning thinking about these types of connections. We never know who we’re going to impact, and how. As a college professor, I know that some of my students view me as a mentor of sorts. Sometimes, that is flattering; sometimes, it is frustrating. A few of my own college professors have become lifelong friends and mentors to me, and I wonder what my own students will think in 5 years, 10 years, 20. How will they view me and our time and work together?
In any case, I have found myself reflecting on what a short time we have in life. We are here but for a fleeting moment, where we are able to make impacts big and small, some we may never realize. Keep fighting the good fight, for yourself and for all the others. Day 12.