We all have people on the edges of our lives. They are people we know, people we like, people we have spent time with. Usually, we connect with these people intermittently. We know who they are, we know their life story, and we genuinely enjoy their company. To draw a fishing analogy, we get swept up in the main current of our lives, so we miss connecting with these people because they live in the eddies and side channels. As any good fisherman (and Robert Frost) knows, it is important to explore beyond the main current. Often, the most pleasant surprises can be found on the path less travelled.
These people may be co-workers, people we don't know despite spending most of our day with them . Sometimes, they are people we meet through teams, groups, school, or our children. They might be neighbours, colleagues or friends of a friend. Sometimes, they are the siblings of close friends. They could be people you meet on a trip or a weekend getaway. We all have people like this in our lives and when something happens to them, it has a distinct impact. One of my lifelong friends lost his brother last week and pushed me to think deeply about the connections we make with the people who move in and out of our lives.
I knew Darren as long as I knew his brother, Warren. We grew up in the same places - Fultonvale Arena, Ardrossan Arena, the Moyer Recreation Center at Josephburg, and Wye Elementary School. Darren, Warren, Jackie and Gary Williams are a huge part of my best childhood memories. As a classmate, teammate, and lifelong friend of Warren's, it seems obvious to say that Dee was my friend's younger brother. Somehow, though, that is an inadequate description. He was much more than a little brother.
I have so many great memories of Darren. Thanks to hockey, we travelled across Canada together. Dee was one of those rare people who are impossible to dislike. He was friendly, outgoing and selfless. Dee was always kind to me and called me Bun, a nickname the persists with many of my closest and dearest friends. I always admired his passion for vehicles and having a good time. In lots of ways, he reminded me of a child's favourite stuffed animal - larger than life, easy to talk to and always there when you needed him. We crossed paths on a fairly regular basis because Warren's house is where our group of friends meets every year, usually at Christmas. Darren is the same age as my sister, so when we were younger, he could often be found at the same parties and social events. In over thirty years, I never met a person who had anything bad to say about Darren Williams.
One memory stands out from the rest. One of our friends got married at a golf course in Edmonton. When we went to leave the wedding, it seemed like a good idea to blast a few golf balls into the pond near the parking lot. It was late and our swings were hampered by dress shoes, the dark and possibly the open bar at the wedding. It was a lot of fun, though, and as usual, Dee was in the thick of it. We were so into it that we got left behind and had to call a cab to catch up with the post-wedding party crowd. As we waited for the cab, we had a great conversation and reminisced about the good times we shared as kids. When the cab arrived, I realized I had no cash, but Darren paid with his usual "no problem" approach.
I can say with certainty that Darren was a good friend, a loyal brother, a loved uncle and everything a parent could ask for in a son. I am very sad that I cannot be there to celebrate his life due to a family vacation. It seems unreal that he won't be there the next time our friends gather for Christmas. I missed the last gathering because I was caught in the rush of my life and kids' activities, and I recognize that I missed a last chance to have my yearly conversation with Darren, whose company I genuinely enjoyed. My heart aches for those who were close to him.
In the coming months, I am going to try harder to slow down and pull myself out of the main current. Hopefully, I will get the chance to spend more time with people on the edges of my life.