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- Mattie Stepanek
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It started when we were in Kindergarten. Some bullies pushed me on the playground and he was the one who came to my aid. After I dusted my pants, we simply acknowledged each other by a simple nod. No words were exchanged but an unspeakable bond was forged.
Years passed. We were together through elementary, middle, high school and even ended up together at the same University. We went everywhere together, did everything similar; in a way, we were as thick as thieves.
But somewhere in that good life, the evil serpent of Ego and Pride bit us.
In the last year, over a trivial matter (which of course we didn't realize then), we parted ways, after being friends for 20 years.
Seasons changed. I had a steady job, a big house, a beautiful wife and a lovely daughter.
Life was good. Sometimes while reminiscing my memories with family, time spend with my friend came as a fleeting image, but the bite was strong and hence I never looked him up. Although I did know that in these years, I had not gained a friend like him.
When the time came and I finally did some introspection, it was during my darling daughter's wedding. It was a time for me to let bygones be bygones and start afresh. I sent my daughter's wedding invitation card to my old friend's parents' house, hoping he will receive it.
Although many may say what a father has got to do with a wedding when all the ladies of the house keep busy like bees. But somehow, I too got involved in the humdrum of the festivity and the invite and the note, which I had finally written with much bravado, was soon forgotten.
A day before the wedding, the bell rang and I had to attend to it. I saw a postman at my door. In his hands was my invite and another letter. Upon asking, he said that the old couple living there returned the invite, saying their son, the addressee couldn't come and sent him back with this other letter that was addressed to me.
I signed under my name and thanked the man. I went to my study, away from all the noise. I quickly tore open the letter in annoyance that even after these years my friend refused to even acknowledge my letter.
The content inside constricted my throat. My mouth was too dry and my eyes started to prick as I took out my note from the invite.
Keeping both pieces of paper side-by-side, I finally couldn't hold it any longer. The tears came unbiddingly and fell on the two letters that carried almost the same message. But my friend had more to add, to explain why he wasn't here.
"Dear Old Pal
If you are reading this that means I have lost my battle and have already left for my journey beyond. After we parted our ways, the life I lived, I have no regrets, except one.
I want to apologize for what happened to us. I am truly sorry.
I want to thank you for being the best friend in my life and making it worthy.
And lastly, please do not make yourself feel guilty for not keeping contact with me. I was in the wrong too.
I guess this cancer was my punishment, although I have never looked at it that way. But not saying these words to you earlier has brought me more grief than my illness. Yet now, I feel half the weight has been lifted off my chest.
I wish you the very best in life (you must have even gotten married, I guess...it's been 4 years after all, since we last saw each other)
I guess I have said enough. Dude, I am too weak to write more.
I hope you will grant my three wishes, something that I should have asked a long time ago. But nonetheless, I hope when this letter finds you, you will and then you will remember me and narrate our stories to your children, perhaps.
Then I will finally have peace and the other half weight will be lifted.
Thank you, old chap
Your Old Friend,
The trumpets sounded below, as I sat in my easy chair, clutching the letters to my heart. Soon, my wife would barge in like a maelstrom and get agitated and reprimand me for not getting dressed.
What she will not know right away that I had lost my friend, some twenty years back and had no clue.
What she will not understand that it was me who lost finally and not him, in the race to do good. He had said those words and I received them, he was free.
And though, even I had said the same three words, mine had gone unheard and probably will remain so, keeping me in bondage.
As I got up to get dressed, I remembered a children’s' poem-
Three Little Keys
Thank You, Sorry and Please
That can open any Lock
To a man's heart
I smiled, and paid heed and granted my friend's request. I hope that you too would do the same. I said a silent prayer, as only that can reach you now, whose words resonated with the words of my letter-
"I am sorry, Mark.
Please forgive me for not being there when you needed me the most.
And thank you for finally making me see the light.
Godspeed, my friend"
I made a throaty chuckle as our memories together crossed the theater of my mind like an old movie, long forgotten.
In life, we often let go of things that at that time seem immaterial but are of immense value once we lose them.
I go downstairs to usher in a new generation after I keep the two letters in my safe, a rightful place, to keep your beloved things, where it will serve as a reminder how wounds inflicted by a harsh tongue can be healed; a misjudgment, a miscommunication can be cleared and a lost friendship be revived by three ordinary words, but whose effect is magical!