I don’t necessarily feel I’m qualified to be offering advice to youngsters who will be part of the Bridgeport High School Class of 2012. I’m neither a Rhodes Scholar nor philosopher; basically I am not an intellectual of any sort. I am, however, seasoned by life’s experience and feel very comfortable to say this as these youngsters depart on to the next stage of their lives.
The advice is simple: Treasure dearly the friendships you make and never, ever take those friendships for granted.
Certainly, that sounds simple enough from an advice standpoint; almost like something you might read in a fortune cookie. Let me add some real-life experience to why I mean that with every ounce of my being. I say that because there is a chance that sometime in the future the person you’re closest to right now may no longer be with you. I don’t mean when you hit your retirement age. I’m talking about in a few months, a few years or even well into your adult years, but way before those golden years.
Too many times in my 43 years on this earth I’ve been torn apart by the death of a friend, including more than one I considered dear, close friends. Yet nothing I ever learned in school, in college or the classroom that is the real world taught me or prepared me for what happened May 22, 2009. It was on that day, as I was sleeping in a hotel room in San Francisco that my best friend – a person I had known since I was five and considered a brother – was taken from me and so many others just short of his 41stbirthday.
Whether I was in Harrison County or on the West Coast that day did not matter. I could not have changed the situation. Yet, I felt helpless and hopelessly trapped from being with his family that day. The bond was so strong that, even though I know different from their perspective, I’ll always feel as if by not being there I let his family down.
Right now, friendship bonds may seem trivial at times. They may seem strong at times. I can assure you they will grow stronger as time moves on. And I can also assure you that when that bond is broken by death, there should never be room for regret. Don’t ever leave room for regret because it could be you getting that phone call at 6 a.m. in another time zone with the news that the person you have known for the majority of your life is gone.
For me, it was over in a matter of hearing the voice on the other line say “he passed.” Just like that, my friend was no longer part of my life; the person I had known for three and a half decades would no longer be there to laugh with me, ridicule me and comfort me. This was a person I grew up with, went to grade school, junior high, high school and college with. This was a person I had worked with, broke bread with and shared family gatherings with.
My friend wasn’t from Bridgeport. He was from Clarksburg and for purposes of my point, where one is from is moot. I do know, however, many of you knew him well. His name was Rusty Mazzie. He coached many of you in various sports and did so many of the things on so many fronts that his path crossed with those of many throughout Harrison County and even the state.
Somewhere in your life right now, you may have a person you hold that dear to your heart. Someone you trust. Someone you can confide in. Someone you can believe, someone you can believe in and, most importantly, count on. There’s also a chance you’ve not met that special friend, although chances are many of you already have met the person who will have the biggest impact on your life as a friend. Do not now, or in the future, take that individual for granted.
I have no regrets on that standpoint. I have a vault of memories that death nor anything else can take and I feel wonderful bringing them out for anyone who will listen because I never took him for granted. For that matter, I never have, or currently take, anyone I consider a dear friend for granted.
Often times, at the end of a long conversation, I tell a friend that I love them. Occasionally, to man things up a bit, I’ll throw in the word “brother” at the end. But, the sentiment is real. It’s never too early to tell a friend that you love them. As graduation approaches consider doing just that. Hopefully, those you hold dearest in your life will be there with you for a long, long time. But don’t take the chance.
Don’t leave the possibility for regret open. It’s hard enough to move ahead without it. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live the rest of my life with that burden.