“One candle loses nothing in lighting another.”
Once, I had a real life. And in that real life, there were things like hobbies and people and work and pets and yards and cars and lawn mowers and gardening tools and garages and sawdust. There were happy things, aggravating things and sad things. There were things to laugh about and be angry over.
With the hobby came friendships. Friendships I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I didn’t know as much as I wanted to about the hobby, but I knew I loved it and for the most part, the people involved in it. As with anything else, a few of them drove me to distraction, out of my mind with rage, but I also met some of the warmest and most caring people I’ve never seen in it also.
There was Tim, who called himself Willow, thinking he was a flimsy and wispy fellow. But Tim’s a genius, a tender heart and a close, loving friend. He opened to me as I opened to him, and I know this man is a part of my heart. And through getting to know Tim, I met another very special person. He went by the handle “Limey” — he was British and proud of it, and lived here in the US and would not return. Limey had a dry British wit and a wickedly sharp mind, and he was a master craftsman who forever challenged younger and less experienced people to reach for more, stretch farther, try something they’ve not tried before. You can do it, he’d encourage us; and I’ll be here to help if you need it.
Email and forum exchanges can’t tell you enough about a man. Electronic communication can’t begin to provide the depth of field someone offers. One day, however, when I spoke to Tim on the phone, Limey stood beside him. And he and I chatted.
I’ve never been the same man. The opening line of this post is what Limey used as his signature line on emails and forum posts, and it sums the man up to a tee. Tim knew him much better than I, and said this wasn’t just his mantra for his hobby, but the way he lived his life.
Limey and I didn’t exchange a lot of communication. A few emails, a couple of forum discussions, and just the one phone conversation. He loved Falcon. He called her a “tigress” because of the way she rallied to my defense over some jerk on the forum. He always had such high praise for her. He liked to challenge me to grow whether I wanted to or not. He was always there to push me. I remember being angry with him briefly because he told me something wherein I felt he expected too much of me. I later realized I was being stupid and didn’t understand the great thing he tried to do for me. I reconciled to him and then, shortly thereafter, my world came crashing around my ears.
For a time, I kept up with them through the forum and email. Limey tried to mentor me as best he could, but I couldn’t keep the emails up. Life and other forces intervened, and my own lack of determination made me slink away into Internet obscurity.
I lost touch with Limey after that. I managed to scape back in touch with Tim briefly, but I’m a poor friend where correspondence is concerned and I once again fell off the face of their earth.
Yesterday, I cleaned up the kids’s computer, and while I did so I found an old bookmark to the forum where I’d met Limey. I looked up Tim and noticed something in his signature line which startled me. I did a quick forum search and found something which slammed me, hammered my day, my heart, my soul.
Limey passed away on December 2, 2007. I don’t know how or why, but it doesn’t matter.
And I realized how much my bad habits cost me. I don’t know if I’d have felt that way if it had been someone genetically tied to me. But I felt a heartsick, punch-in-the-gut hurt and spilled a few tears. Because of my laziness, not taking the opportunities I had when they were there, I missed the passing — by almost two years — of one of the greatest men I’ve ever met. A genuine human, a great person, and a gentleman slipped into the night and I wasn’t there to acknowledge his passing.
That candle will never again light another. But the world is bright with the light of those he did ignite. I don’t deserve the privilege of calling Limey my friend, but I can say, without doubt or hesitation, I’ve never met a finer gentleman and a finer person, so willing to give out what he had inside, to share of himself, for nothing other than the joy of that giving, expecting nothing in return.
No, I’ll never be the same because of Limey. I don’t deserve the privilege of calling him my friend; I didn’t know him well enough. But in retrospect, how could I ever have known such a one well enough? He was a friend to me, and to many others.
Rest in peace, sweet prince. Many candles did you light with yours, and nothing did you lose in so doing. It is we who have lost with your passing.