Thurman P. Woodfork


Recently, I heard from an old friend I had not spoken with in years. We had been stationed on El Pani, a mountain in Spain that held the small radar squadron to which we were assigned. Our reunion was bittersweet; he told me that my old friend, Max, had died.

And so, another friend has lost the counterfeit immortality of youth; he has gone to join friends and family who made this inevitable transition before him. It makes me stop and think about things that had never concerned me before: I look at my brothers and sisters, who have gradually grown grey and less nimble over the years, and contemplate life without them. Until recently, my friends had died as the result of wars and accidents; now, the summoner is “Natural Causes.”

I think of old friends I have not contacted for years, although they live in the same city; that’s easily corrected. I think, with regret, of other old friends I’d made in far away places – other cities and foreign countries – with whom I’ve lost contact through careless neglect… letters that were allowed to go unanswered. Finally, the letters stopped coming. Not so easy to correct.

Today, a neighbor came to the door; she just wanted to say that she would still be our neighbor. As I stood and watched her slow progress back to her own home, I remembered when she and her husband had first moved next door, over fifty years ago.

The husband, a daughter, and a son have all passed away; she is now enfeebled and her memory is a little uncertain. I wondered what prompted her to come and announce that she would still be our neighbor. She finally reaches her door and goes inside. I hear her door close behind her and close my own. I hope her visit was not a portent of a less welcome caller.

Some folks say that a person is not dead as long as his or her memory survives. It occurs to me that this sentiment is only valid if one doesn’t believe in the soul’s immortality. Otherwise, when their last friend, relative, or acquaintance dies, those who had gone before would blink out along with them. Not a happy idea to mull over.