The telephone, in it’s many forms, has become indispensable in the world as we know it today. The ability to communicate virtually instantaneously with anyone of interest is easy to take for granted, and has resulted in an almost lackadaisical approach to the maintenance of relationships. We should, however, be careful. This casual reliance on a brief electronically transmitted communication can, and all too often does, result in regrets that will haunt us forever.
I have a close friend, a professional who took enormous pride in his commitment to his chosen business, who ended his relationship with his brother in a phone call. His brother called one day to urge my friend to take the next day off and “drive down to do a little fishing”. My friend firmly rejected the offer, begging off as a result of innumerable tasks facing him in a business where these tasks came in an unending stream. Now is not the time said my friend to his brother, maybe I can work it in later on. A day or two later, another call came, to tell my friend his brother had just lost his life in a truck accident. My friend did not have time to fish……but made time for the funeral. A life long regret is created.
I was just back from Vietnam, enjoying my daughter born during my absence and immersed in new responsibilities at Ft. Leonard Wood, where I was stationed upon my return. Mom called and told me that dad wasn’t doing well, and probably did not have much time left on this earth. I was short on leave time and delayed the trip to South Carolina for “just a bit longer”. The next call signaled the imminent death of dad, and I hopped on an airplane and made the trip to see him, now hospitalized at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Dad and I enjoyed a great conversation that afternoon and exchanged greetings the next morning, the last conversation that I had with him. He died early that afternoon, leaving hours of conversation lost to eternity because I failed to recognize the relentless march of time.
Bob Plymell was my zone sergeant during those formative years when I morphed from a sheep to a sheepdog. Bob was a rarity. He was perfectly capable of being a tough, demanding supervisor when necessary and a great friend and confidant otherwise. We grew apart as our different career trajectories established themselves and our few conversations were at a retirement, funeral or during a short telephone conversation. He lived in Davies County, a long drive, and we never did enjoy that cup of coffee and one on one conversation we talked about. The call came, and Bob was gone, again leaving many things unsaid between us.
All too often, the telephone brings us word that yet another friend, acquaintance or relative has suddenly departed……leaving us regretting our failure to sit down for a few minutes to talk about our lives. Sure, we are as busy as we have ever been. Life today is conducted at a pace that would stagger the generations that have preceded us. We have all, to some extent, fallen into the trap of reliance on the telephone to maintain relationships.
Don’t be surprised when the day comes that a carefully planned funeral involves the decedent, surrounded by flowers and a few photographs, reposing in front of a row or two of chairs, each with a cell phone on it………or maybe just a text message capturing the highlights of a funeral service previously recorded in a studio where the funeral home “set” was used as a backdrop. I think we all could benefit from taking a little time now to avoid the regrets later. It is all about time and telephones…..