It’s Hard When People Fade From Your Life

I was watching Moana for the first time the other night with my kids. Towards the end of the movie, a particularly touching scene occurs where the deceased grandmother returns in spirit form to encourage Moana on her mission. When Moana sees her she runs into her arms and is able to hug her grandmother. Moana is overjoyed at seeing her and it tugged at my heart a little.

Within the past couple of years, I’ve lost both my grandfathers. The scene in Moana made me miss them. Oh, to be given the chance to embrace our loved ones again. I thought about what I would do if I had one more day with my grandpas and my beloved Auntie Bell that passed away when I was a teen.

With my paternal grandpa, I’d ask him to drive me to one of his favorite restaurants not far from his hometown. We’d go there and have dinner and he’d flirt with the young waitresses and tease other diners that he knew. After dinner, we’d go home and share a slice of my grandmother’s pie at the kitchen table. Maybe after that, we’d go sit on the back porch and I’d listen to him tell me with perfect clarity all about his shenanigans when he was a young man.

If I had one more day with my maternal grandpa, I’d ask him to take me for a drive in the country. We’d drive down to our favorite creek, lovingly named “Cougarville” by him. We’d get out of the car and tramp down to the creek bed and skip rocks on it. He’d try to scare me by pretending to hear cougars in the small woods surrounding the creek. After that, we’d go home and inspect his garden. I’d listen to him tell me all about his plants. He’d pull up pesky weeds with his weathered, strong hands and share a strawberry with me that he pulled off the vine. Dinner with him would be a feast from his garden and I’d listen to him tell jokes and laugh himself to tears. I would love to hear his laugh again.

With all those that I’ve lost, I’d love to hug them again. It would be great to hear their voice and sit down to tell them all about my life and what’s been going on. More than anything, I would just want to be in their presence. When our loved ones are near, we can take them for granted and then when they are gone, there are so many things we wish we could tell them and share with them again. Sadly, they are gone and we can’t have that experience with them this side of Heaven. So, we must trust that our reunion someday will be better than we ever imagined.

But, what about those people that have been part of our lives and are still here with us on earth? What about those in our history that were once bright and shining players in our story, but have been lost to us through a myriad of different reasons? What if we had one more day with them?

I had six first cousins to play with growing up. I was friends with all of them, but closer with some than others. One of my boy cousins was particularly close to me. I loved spending time with him. He was funny, goofy, a little ornery, and had just the right amount of cockiness to not turn you away. He made any time spent at our grandpa and grandma’s house fun. He loved to play basketball and he was extremely talented; so talented that he could have played in college. We spent hours out on our grandparent’s driveway shooting hoops. I was horrible and he always beat me at any game we played. He loved giving me pointers on how to shoot better and would even praise me when I’d show a smidge of skill.

In our later teen years, he began to change. A darkness came over him and it scared me. One day, I found out that he was involved with drugs and it completely crushed my heart. Just crushed it. I was devastated, because that cocky, playfulness about him was gone. He entered a world that was foreign to me and I felt like I had lost a best friend. He stopped coming around to family events and years would pass between times of seeing him.

Then he got sick–very sick. Sick like death was knocking on the door. He physically recovered from it, but it did something to him. He is not the person he once was, not even close. In many ways, he is lost to himself and the family and it’s heartbreaking. I’ve wanted so many times to help him, but sometimes there just isn’t helping another. Sometimes the damage done to the soul through sin, suffering, and life experiences is so great that we must rely on God’s mercy to one day bring the healing that only He can give.

“I knew you when you were a child, I knew you when you had a fire.
I saw you when you lost your spark, I saw the world kill your desire.
Oh, were those younger days, a chance to feel alive and how we played the game.
And now we just close our eyes and when we look again those times, have faded away.”

It’s hard to leave people in the past, especially those that were major players. My cousin was once one of my best buddies. We laughed, we joked, we told each other all about our lives. I thought it would always be that way, but life happens and sometimes we are forced to place that person in the past. It’s painful to do that, isn’t it? I find it hard. I wish he would show up at some Christmas and be all better. I know that’s not going to happen and that hurts. In a way it feels like I’ve abandoned him and I know that somewhere, out there, he is a hurting soul.

Many times, I have wished to have one more day with him. That last time we played basketball together, laughing and carrying on in the sunshine, I had no idea it would be the last. Neither did he. I probably would have relished it a little more. The difficult thing is that he’s still here on earth, but, sadly, I can’t experience that with him again. I wish I could see his smiley face as he hopped down the back steps of my grandparent’s back porch. I wish we could play another round of “Horse” or “Around the World.” Those memories have to be placed in my history and, thankfully, when I miss him, I can draw those memories up and smile.

People come and go in our lives. Friends from childhood grow up and move on. Family members that were once so much a part of our lives, take a path that finds them miles from where they should be. We must always remember that those people matter and they helped shape us. They are pages in our story book and it’s hard to look through later pages and not find them there. So, we pray and think of them and hope that they know they are loved. Most importantly, though, we need to love people the best we can with the time we have with them.

I’ve got no answer for the years, I only know that I still care.
I know there’ll always be some tears, I know I’ll always still be there.
Oh, were those younger days, a chance to feel alive and how we played the game.
And now we just close our eyes and when we look again those times, have faded away.
                                                                                                   “Younger Days” by my dad




  1. Anni Harry says:

    This is so beautiful. And, made me stop to think of those living who have left my life. I loved your last two sentences, but perhaps the last one the most, “we need to love people the best we can while we have them.” Such truth.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Amy Thomas says:

      Thank you so much, Anni. It made me tearful to write it, but the older I get the more I see how important it is to focus on people and what they bring to our lives.

  2. mypsalm says:

    reminds me of friendships that have fallen away for various reasons. I’m going to pray for healing for your cousin, and I hope you find your way back to one another

    • Amy Thomas says:

      Thank you so much for the prayers. He needs them and so do I. I hope that we find our way back to each other, too. It may not be in this life, but I hope for God’s mercy and grace for him and me in the next.

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