Walking alone

David Epps

I saw a meme (noun: a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied, often with slight variations, and spread rapidly by internet users) on Facebook the other day which spoke a truth. The meme featured the photograph of a solitary lion, walking in a field, and the words, “Be willing to walk alone. Many who started with you won’t finish with you.” I have found this to be true.

All of us have experienced the reality of looking back on our own personal journeys and realizing that people who were with us during earlier days have disappeared from our company. Somewhere around 10-15 percent of my high school graduating class (and the number may be larger) are deceased. Some fell early in life to disease or accidents. At least one was killed in Vietnam. A few died of drug overdoses and there were, sadly, suicides. Some have passed more recently (but at 67 years of age it still seems too young), mostly of illness and disease. I can look at a photo of the 1968 Dobyns-Bennett Indians football team and see people that are gone.

I have wondered how many, if any, of my boot camp platoon from Parris Island are gone. I have thought about taking my platoon book and visiting The Wall to locate names but I just haven’t found in me the will to do so. And, of course, the older I get, the more family members seem to depart the scene, the latest being a dear cousin just a number of weeks ago.

I suppose that all journeys carry this risk … that some will not finish with you. Recently our church observed its 22nd anniversary. In the weeks leading up to that event I prowled through some old photographs. There, too, I found people who are missing. Some started with us and, due to job or family concerns, moved away. A number have died and we remember them each All Saints Day as we call their names during the Sunday church service and the bells are rung to commemorate their time among us.

Others are remembered with sadness. These are the ones I thought would always be with us but, for reasons good or ill, they went their separate ways. Any loss, especially if those companions were beloved, creates a hole in our hearts. Yet, like the lion, we keep trudging steadily forward.

As we do, we discover to our surprise and delight, that we are joined by others who, while they did not begin this journey with us, happily take their places and take up the tasks that were abandoned by those who parted ways. These become our new companions on the journey and, perhaps, will even be there at the end.

Truthfully, all of life is a series of journeys. We journeyed through high school, the military, the college days, fraternities and sororities, the sports teams as adults, those early golfing buddies — and we thought that we would keep all those friends for a lifetime.

But, with rare exception, we didn’t. Sometimes they went away. Sometimes we did. It would be so very sad if it all ended in solitude.

But it doesn’t. Or at least it needn’t. We can include others in our journeys and we can join others on theirs. I look at my life and I find that I have scores of friends that I didn’t even know existed a few short years ago. I have interests that I had no interest in previously and I have joined groups and associations that were far from my thoughts in earlier years. I have also laid aside interests that were vitally important at the time but no longer hold my attention. But in all of this I am not like the solitary lion walking a lonely path.

Sometimes, I admit, it feels lonely. There aren’t that many people who truly understand the life I lead. But the loneliness is passing. There is no reason to be lonely if one is open to companions being a part of our lives.

In this the meme is true: We will not finish with all those who started with us. This is also true: We must be prepared, if necessary, to walk our path even if none go with us.

But this is also true: When we finish — and we will — we will not be alone … unless we isolate ourselves. It will simply be a somewhat different crowd than we thought it would be.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at bishopdavidepps@gmail.com.]