A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime?

Thirty-three years ago today, I was awakened early in the morning by a persistent knocking on my door in Johannesburg. I had worked later than usual the previous night, and desperately needed that extra hour of sleep, but it was not to be. Whoever was knocking just wouldn’t go away, so I got up and stumbled to the door, bleary-eyed.

There stood an old family friend of my father’s, with her husband, come to tell me that my father had died the night before. My mother had called her so that I wouldn’t be alone when I heard the news. They stayed while I phoned my mother. They made me tea and didn’t leave until they had helped me to make arrangements to fly home.

They’ve been on my mind this weekend, as have quite a few other people.

I spent most of Sunday with a friend who is about to leave Australia to live in New Zealand. She was the first friend I made in Australia. We connected because we were aliens from the same place, albeit via different routes, and we both related to the strangeness of our new situation in a foreign country.

It was great seeing her again on Sunday because we hadn’t seen each other in a while, but I felt sad afterwards and began to ponder the theory that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Will we ever see each other again? I’m sure we will, but even if it turns out that we were in each other’s lives for a season of only two and a half years, then we will be grateful that we formed our friendship at the time when we both needed it most.

Because I moved around South Africa a lot in my early years of working, I have had many fleeting connections with people. I always found it sad when we drifted apart. So many best friends faded from my life when I faded from their town, or they went overseas. In those days there were no mobile phones so we didn’t keep the same numbers when we moved, and most lost interest in writing letters after a short while.

It took me several years to stop resenting the lost connections, or blaming them. I eventually realised that not all people you meet in your lifetime will be there forever, and that’s not necessarily their fault. Most people come into your life and change it in some way – for better or worse – but either way you learn something from their presence at your side.

Some leave after a few weeks or months, some after a few years. Some you see again; some you don’t. Even our beloved pets don’t live as long as we do, but those seasons they spend with us are remembered fondly for the rest of our lives.

We all make connections, but just because people drift apart doesn’t mean that they’re not important. The short length of time we spend with each other doesn’t diminish the impact of the connection.

The friend who told me to read The Artist’s Way was a musical director I worked with eighteen years ago for the six month season of a particular show. I haven’t seen her since her now grown-up son was a newborn baby, but I do believe that she came into my life when I needed someone to tell me how to change my life’s direction. I’ll always be grateful that she did. And some years later I was in the life of another musician for a long enough season to give him a copy of the same book, because I knew he needed it too.

My father’s friend who came to tell me of his death was once his girlfriend about a decade before he met my mother. It hadn’t been a serious love affair, but they always enjoyed each other’s company and stayed friends all their lives. When I was a child we went to Johannesburg on holiday, and we visited her and her husband in their beautiful old house on the top of the ridge in Kensington, with its glorious view of the eastern suburbs. When they came down to the coast on holiday, they stopped and spent time with us on the way. Birthday cards flew via airmail between all four adults. She kept in touch with my mother after my father’s death, and after the death of her husband some years later. Some friendships really do last a lifetime, no matter the distance.

Today, thanks to email and the Internet, I have reconnected with two friends from primary school. When I was in high school, my friends and I had pen-friends in exotic places around the world. Now my high school friends are my email pen-friends in exotic places too.

Look at the people around you today and ask yourself: Are they there for a reason, a season or a lifetime? And then think about the reason why you might be in each of their lives. What purpose do you fill for them? Are you there for a reason, a season or a lifetime?

8 thoughts on “A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime?

  1. It is wonderful to love people. It is lovely to meet up with old friends. It is life-affirming to remember those we have loved and who loved us though we will never see them again. A true and moving post, Susan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I still search on Facebook for old school and work friends from pre-internet times, and I love it when I’m able to connect up with them again, even though I will probably never see them face to face. Especially since I’ve moved so far from my country of birth.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Monika. As I get older, it’s becoming easier to accept that not all things work out the way I want them to, but as time passes, I see the reasons why things happened as they did, and it’s a way of looking back without regrets or assigning blame. I think it’s going to be useful in my future writing too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan,

    This is beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes when you mentioned pets. I can’t imagine the day when I lose one of our three.

    I think FB has been great to keep friendships alive. I’m thankful to regularly “see” my friends from around the world and live vicariously through their travel and adventures. Using FB, for social media, though I do it, feels like work, but I know it’s important. Anyway, thank you for sharing this, and for your friendship and support through this blog!
    Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, Kimberly. I too dread the thought of saying goodbye to one of my pets. I try to ignore the fact that my cats are getting old – ten and eleven – but both are still energetic and playful.

      Two generations of cats ago, I had a neighbour who was so delighted to meet my new kitten. As she nuzzled and petted him, she told me she loved cats but couldn’t bear to have another one because she had been so sad when her cat had died some years before. I felt she was depriving herself of the potential ten to fifteen years of joy brought by having another cat, purely because of the inevitable sadness of saying goodbye at the end. She could in turn have brought so much joy into the life of a rescue cat, or two…

      And I love Facebook for giving me the opportunity to stay in touch with so many people from my past, as well as several whom I have never physically met.


  3. I guess every period of our lives hold a pattern of great memories. The less we have in common now the less we have a connection? I really don’t like it because I always seem the one making the effort to stay in contact. Cheers,H

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Helen. Yes, it’s hard when you realise that you’re the only one trying to keep a particular friendship alive. Sometimes it’s because one person’s priorities change, sometimes it’s because of geographical distance, and often it’s a combination of both. I think it’s important to neither blame nor feel guilt.

      I once had a teacher who told our class that the saddest words in the English language were “if” and “only” and that we must move forward and not dwell on past regrets. Of course, she was probably talking about “If only I had studied better for that test” but it works just as well for life lessons…


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