Gone

All but one of the roads that lead away from my school lead downhill. I didn’t get this fact’s importance until I stepped onto the playground one morning and saw ten boys, lined up along the chain link, looking out, hands gripping the fence. Stepping up next to boy number ten, I asked what was going on.

Look down the hill. There it goes! Can you get it?

A big, brand new, red bouncy ball was leaving us – a top-quality kickball – and like every ball before this one, it cleared the fence and escaped. I saw it begin to roll and I knew I would not be able to get it. I got to watch it pick up speed, pop on a bit of street debris, and land moving faster than before. There stood I, powerless, just like the other ten boys.

Each time a ball goes over the fence, we get to practice how to give things up. I am a witness to daily launches of kickballs, soccer balls, and every other round thing. I have become more accustomed to the loss, having stood there at the fence, watching a ball fly over my head, smack in the center of the street, and then move on.

At times it may linger there as if deciding which way to go or whether it will go at all. But, in the end, gravity compels the journey downward, making the ball pick up speed, and then comes the vanishing. On a rare day, a kind driver will hop out of his vehicle and snatch one for us, or a ball might get caught on the tire of a parked car. More often, they go for good.

We don’t get to hang on to things as long as we want. They stay in our lives as long as they do. Nothing except practice blunts the punch of a loss. Just about everything we treasure goes – even our very selves. As the loss unfolds, time can seem to slow. I can imagine that I am hearing the little voices of wise spirits whisper unto me that which I have always needed to know about how to hold and honor that which I cannot own.

Tonight I got to visit with those wise little voices again. During the day, we had hosted a big festival on the playground. Music, children, snow cones and a half-dozen balls booted over the fence never to return. Our school sometimes measures the best days by the biggest losses. That’s one way to do it.

I closed up the yard gate after one last child walked out. I went in to lock up the building. I was the only one there. Standing alone in the halls of an empty school building serves as a kind of proof that the building itself is alive. Dark corridors, silent but full. Lights out and just the wind tunneling down hallways and under doors.

Creaks coming from behind the building’s old and weathered skin. Does it make sense to say that empty schools are full nonetheless – full of a particular kind of empty?

What I get to witness in a moment like this one is the arrival of an ending, advancing with jaws open, eating everything that had been in order to make space for what needs to come next.

That’s what the long-gone kickball would have wanted me to know.

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10 Responses to Gone

  1. James May 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Once again, thank you for a timely and poignant Notes. Your thoughts have brought for some of my own.. I am facing loss right now. And there is a strange power in letting go. Loss is no stranger. Yet, as you stated, practice helps.

  2. Pierre May 5, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    Wonderful. Thank you.

    • greg May 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      Great day to base this post upon. Thanks Pierre!

  3. Em May 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    We don’t get to hang on to things as long as we want. They stay in our lives as long as they do. Nothing except practice blunts the punch of a loss. Just about everything we treasure goes – even our very selves. As the loss unfolds, time can seem to slow. I can imagine that I am hearing the little voices of wise spirits whisper unto me that which I have always needed to know about how to hold and honor that which I cannot own.

    AMEN!

    • greg May 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      So grateful to have you here and reading this stuff! How to honor and hold that which we cannot own! You know this story so well!

  4. Jon May 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    GOLD!

  5. Kate May 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Just what I needed. I’m to be attending a memorial service later today for a man who was plucked away while jogging last week. It comes on the heels another loss in late January of this year so, needed some grounding. Thank you.

    • greg May 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      Half the time – maybe more – I write to ground myself. The act of reflection seems to be the path toward getting my feet back on the ground. Thank you!

  6. Kris June 25, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    Missed you at the reunion. Thanks for continuing to share the thoughtful writing.

  7. Ling June 25, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    You will be missed when you go over the fence. This is lovely

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