How to raise the dead with your immortal power
One of the features I love about Facebook, is the memories function. Nearly every week, I can go back and see what I posted, the status I wrote or photo and caption I uploaded, from years ago.
Of course, I love seeing how much the kid has grown up. From the chubby wad of skin to an energetic and loud little girl. All her snarky looks. Her surprised face when she stuck a carrot up her nose. And I love seeing travel records with the divine goddess.
Because of this feature, I’ve come to believe in the power of writing to help us remember.
Writing to remember
In the most practical sense, when I need to remember something, like to make my freaking doctor’s appointment, I have to write it down.
If I want to remember a deadline, and avoid the wrath of one my project managers, I have to write it down.
There’s a direct correlation between writing and memory. That’s why most people admit they need to write things down. Like appointments, to-dos, and anything else they don’t want to forget.
But it’s not just to-do lists …
There are some experiences, and even people, too good, too beautiful, and too important to ever forget after they’ve come and gone. And we can bring them back to life through the immortal power of writing.
A few weeks ago, I was withering away on our family room sofa. Like a beached whale, unmoving, unmotivated — time crept around me.
But then, out of nowhere, I suddenly thought of Castle …
Castle was a junior in high school when we first met. I was a freshman. And we didn’t meet under the most cordial of circumstances.
I was trying out for the high school tennis team, and he was my first challenge match. Castle was about twice my height. And he had more muscle in his forearm than I had in my entire body. So yeah, I was a little intimidated.
And his temper didn’t help.
The match didn’t last long. Probably the shortest of my life. And I lost. Like, really lost. But miraculously, I still made the team.
The next year, Castle ended up with me as his doubles partners. I felt bad he was paired with me during his senior year. This was his last go round before he went off to college. And I was on the very bottom of the team. So we really didn’t stand a chance of winning anything big. But we played some pretty good matches together.
I couldn’t help but smile thinking about Castle. But I also felt a sense of surprise. Because this type of wandering down memory lane, especially high school memories, isn’t common for me. In fact, I’ve tried to blot out my entire high school experience from my brain. Those years were so … blah. I’d rather forget them permanently.
Yet, when Castle came to my mind, three memories came rushing back to me.
MEMORY #1: Castle pulled my girlfriend’s shorts down
My girlfriend was a senior when I was a sophomore. And she was pretty. Tennis connected us. She was a hard worker. I think she had some aspirations to play in college. But I’m not sure it ever worked out for her.
Anyways, one afternoon at tennis practice, the entire tennis team met to go over the workout regiment for the day. After the coach had dismissed us, and as we headed to our assigned courts, Castle snuck behind my girlfriend and pulled her shorts down. Like lightening quick. It all happened so fast, I don’t think anyone really saw. Though I did …
To tell the truth, that was the first time I’d ever seen a girl in her underwear — even for only a split second. I thought about my girlfriend in her underwear for a long time after that. Even after I broke up with her. She cheated on me with a guy who was a cowboy. Well, he wore boots.
But, regardless, in that moment, I WAS SHOCKED!
More than that, I was angry. I couldn’t believe Castle would do something so cruel. But I wasn’t the fighting type. In hand-to-hand combat, there’s no way I’d ever survive. So Castle only got a nasty glare from me. And, since we were doubles partners, I think I ended up hitting him in the ass with a tennis ball while serving a few weeks later.
Single and looking…for a date
Since I broke up with my girlfriend after she cheated on me, I was single when it came time for the sports banquet at my high school. And without a girlfriend, I didn’t have a sure date.
That’s one of things that sucks about not having a girlfriend in high school. There’s always a dance or an event you have to go to. And having a girlfriend always relieved the potential stress of rejection that came along with asking a girl to go as your date. I could put on a charming face. Say some nice things. But inside, I was nothing but a little chicken shit when I had to legitimately put myself out there. But, in my limited high school brain, going alone was worse. Not having a date was the ultimate reputation killer.
Thankfully, I found a girl. She was one of the hottest girls in school.
But she was clear from the beginning — we were just going as friends. And not friends with benefits. Meaning: I shouldn’t expect any tongue. I didn’t care, really. But don’t get me wrong, if she had wanted to stick her tongue down my throat …
She didn’t. In fact, when we went to a party after the banquet, she was sticking her tongue done another guy’s throat. I didn’t know him, he didn’t go to our school. In fact, I don’t think he was allowed in school.
MEMORY #2: Castle saved my life
I ended up getting really drunk at that party (sorry mom). Like, I could barely walk. And to tell the truth, I don’t remember much else about that night.
I woke up the next morning in a dead sprint for the toilet to throw up. After heaving, I tried slogging through my memories — trying to make sense of everything. Because I was surprised I was in my own room. There were so many holes and gaps in my recollection. Even more important, and somewhat terrifying, I wondered how I got home. I couldn’t have driven …
Later on, to my complete surprise, I found out Castle had driven me home in my car. He’d taken my keys from me at some point. Looked at my driver’s license to find out my address. Tried every key until he found my house key. And carried me into the house, and put me into bed.
When I found out what Castle had done, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness. I mean, Castle and I weren’t close friends. Especially not after the incident with my girlfriend. But it’s no exaggeration to write that Castle showed me more compassion that night than I could ever adequately thank him for.
Hear me here, I wasn’t stupid then. At least, for the most part. I knew what could’ve happened if I’d driven. I would have killed myself. And probably someone else. In truth, Castle saved my life that night.
And the more I think about Castle, the more I think it was just in his nature to save people. I assume that’s why he planned to be doctor. Or at least, I think he wanted to be a doctor. And he would’ve been a great one, he was so smart. You can’t be a doctor and not have good brains.
I just wish someone had been there to save Castle. That someone would’ve showed up when he needed them.
MEMORY #3: Castle was gone
I remember when I got the call from a hometown friend telling me what had happened. That Castle was gone. I just sat on my bed stunned. Too stunned to cry. Too stunned to yell. And too stunned to do anything but sit and stare at nothing.
For about five years after that, when I went back to visit my hometown, I made it a point to drive by his house. But I never stopped. I should have. But I couldn’t. I’d slow down and say a quick prayer for his family. Or I’d just whisper a word of thanks. And drive on.
There were a few times when I felt an overwhelming guilt come over me. And I would almost stop. I’d even imagined it all in my head. I’d get out of the car and walk to the porch and ring the doorbell. And when Castle’s mom answered, I’d say: “You probably don’t remember me. Which is fine. But you need to know your son saved my life. He was a hero when I needed one the most. And I won’t waste this second chance he gave me.”
I don’t drive by any more. I rarely go back to my hometown, and when I do, we usually have a ton of things and activities to do on our itinerary.
And even if I could, I probably wouldn’t pay a quick visit. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m ashamed. As though, in some weird way, my life hasn’t proved worthy of his death. It’s strange, really. Like knowing he saved my life would be easier if he was still alive.
A part of Castle still lives on
I share this story because the day after I wrote it, a friend of mine posted a happy birthday to Castle on Facebook — he would’ve turned the big 40 this year.
Of course, I made a comment. And I liked the post. For the rest of the day, I was pinged every time someone else commented. The thoughts people shared were amazing. Even after all these years, more than two decades, there’s still a sense of heartbreak and mourning … but also tender, affectionate joy.
I believe it was more than mere coincidence that brought Castle to my mind. To inspire me to write out my memories of him. Even the stories that aren’t so good. Because they all work together to shape a fuller picture. With more clarity. And a broader context. I mean, the good and the bad are a part of all of us. That’s just real life. What it means to be human. And none of us are saints, right? Though, I’ve been told I’m really close …
The immortal power of writing and sharing stories
I’ve pondered this for weeks. And I’m even more convinced of the power of writing and sharing stories. In many ways, through my experience of reading and writing about Castle, I’ve come to realize, it’s as though he’s still alive. In all of us. Through our shared memories and recollections. As we recreate and re-tell the stories about how our lives have intersected.
Something, even now, moves and stirs deep in my soul as I write that. Because, even though Castle is gone, his memory has so much to teach about what it means to be an imperfect human who has the capacity to demonstrate lifesaving compassion. And to inspire all of us to make the most out of second chances.
I just wish Castle was given a second chance of his own. But maybe sharing his story, and my memories of him, is the next best thing … or at least a good thing.
Immortalize the people and experiences you never want to forget through writing
Here’s my point: write. Write something today. A story from your past. A memory. Never let yourself forget the experiences, both good and painful, that shaped you. And the people who’ve changed you. Challenged you. And impacted you. Tell your story. Tell their story.
Let them live on. Immortalize them. A sentence at a time.