Recently I was having a conversation with a friend and we got onto one of my favourite subjects, me and what makes me, me.
She was curious as to why I often tread softly with other peoples feelings, why I don't just jump in with both feet at the first sign of an invitation and yet charge through other aspects of life like a bull in a china shop, competing and enjoying every moment like is my first or last day on the planet.
At first I didn't have an answer and it got me thinking about the moments in life that made me who I am. Out of the fog came a moment that I think changed me and how I think about our interactions with each other.
Probably 10 years or so ago an acquaintance lost their battle with depression and committed suicide. It was a tragic waste of life and left a wife and kids battling with the loss. Now I did not know this person or his family very well, he was in that circle of people you know at arms length, you may see once a year at an event or through business.
Out of the blue I got an invitation to attend the funeral. Now like most people, funerals are not my preferred outing but I knew other people who were going and a part of me felt that under the circumstances it may have been important for his family to have the support.
The first thing that struck me was the reaction of his church to his passing. The ceremony was held in a hall rather than the church. It seems that because it was a suicide the church and his priest refused to have the ceremony in the actual church. I was also shocked to hear that members of the congregation that were supposed to be his closest and dearest friends refused to attend because of the nature of his death.
Now I am not a religious person at all. I am an atheist and I can tell you that the sort of bullshit pulled by this particular denomination of organised religion only confirmed my thoughts that religion is a human construct, more about controlling people than anything else..but I digress.
After the funeral and during the wake I was approached by his wife. She was doing the rounds tearfully thanking those who attended and did not pass judgement on him taking his own life. That was moving but nothing prepared me for her next comments to me.
She started to tell me about a moment that he and I had shared together many years previous to his death. It seems that we had spent a morning together doing what we do and I had taken him along for the ride and included him in my team and what we were doing that day.
Apparently he had had a great time and been over joyed at being included and participating in that days events. He had enjoyed it enough so that he had talked about that day years later and not long before taking his own life.
What hit me as this story was being told was that I had no recollection of the events she was describing. I was standing their dumbstruck trying to recall the day, where we were, what we were doing and how on earth it had come to pass that I had included this person in my team on that day. I honestly did not remember it or his involvement in anything I had done in the past.
Slowly it came back to me over the subsequent days but with it was an overwhelming feeling of fear and confusion.
Here was a day in the life of someone that was of importance to them, where the interaction I had with them held relevance and thankfully positive memories. Yet for me it was a blink of the eye, forgotten as soon as it happened, another in the string of adventures and for me no different to many before and after.
I was slightly shaken by the thoughts of other interactions less positive I had had in the lives of those around me. If a positive event can stay with someone in that way, then how long must the negative ones bounce around in peoples life?
Now obviously not everyone is a sensitive to such things and I know that I sure let go of things and move on reasonably fast but it made me aware that we don't always know how others are interpreting our actions and it is that thought that has hung with me ever since.
I try to walk softly, I am sure I don't always succeed. That is who I am.