PEOPLE ARE SOCIAL CREATURES, and live as much in the minds and hearts of their fellows as in their own bodies. We start out with our mother and father, and relatives, to whom we are bound in flesh and spirit. They're us and we're them. As we accumulate acquaintances, associates, friends and lovers we become larger, part of a vast network of knowing and being known. Life is a process of winning people to you, and becoming part of them and them becoming part of you, until you are merged into an entwined whole that consists of you and everybody you know or have ever known, love or have ever loved, and everybody who has ever loved you. We are other people, nothing more and nothing less.

Life is also a process of losing people. Every time a friend leaves you, never to return, you lose part of yourself. Some of us leave early, to live on in the memories and dreams of those left behind. Inevitably, some of us remain longer, somewhat diminished, but with prospects of new friendships to plug the holes torn out by the loss of old. But there's no going back fifteen or twenty or thirty years and slowly, day by day, forming a friendship that only time can build, so the part of you that frolicked in the sunshine mornings of your youth slowly disappears, because there's no one left to remember it; no one who was part of it. If we live long enough, we become dwellers on an island of the present, with such a diminished past that we may even come to doubt our own existence. Eventually, we lose all our old friends, and become just ourselves, and left so alone we fade and quietly depart.

In memory of my friend Linda Parker Guenzel, who died, after a long illness, on March 2, 1995. May God rest her and keep her in His arms.

It's Been Good to Know You (March 2) Abbreviated title of a Woody Guthrie dustbowl song, So Long, It's Been Good to Know You. The refrain goes,

So long, it's been good to know you,

So long, it's been good to know you,

So long, it's been good to know you,

But this dusty old dust is getting me down,

And I've got to be moving along.

The valediction "so long," most likely derives from "shalom."