To a Friend, Dying Young

by | Nov 30, 2020 | News

Kristi Gustavson, CEO

Just like people, there are certain films, books, songs, music lyrics that will stay with us forever.  At some point in my formative years, I saw the movie Out of Africa.  I was struck by the tension between the beauty of the African scenery and the stark contrast of the lives of the European colonists versus the native Kenyans.  Looking back, I am sure there was much of the film I did not fully understand until later in life.  Understanding aside, I loved the movie the first time I saw it and it continues to make an impression on me.

One of the main characters Denys, portrayed by Robert Redford, particularly struck me.  Denys lived in the moment, owning few possessions, and eschewing the traditional European notions of society, marriage, and even relationships. His romantic relationship with the narrator Karen Blixen, played by Meryl Streep, was complex, unorthodox, beautiful, and flawed.  Following Denys’s untimely death, Karen recites a poem by poet A. E. Housman and then gives a prayer. “Now take back the soul of Denys George Finch Hatton, whom you have shared with us. He brought us joy and we loved him well. He was not ours . . . he was not mine.”

Like a movie about a faraway place, we are lucky in life if we meet someone who challenges us and changes our perspective.  I lost a friend recently … suddenly and without warning.  He was the kind of person that constantly challenged me.  Being friends with him changed who I am.  Not in a drastic way but in subtle nuances of perspective change.

He was the kind of person that lived in the moment.  In fact, he seemed happy almost all the time.  He could make even the most mundane daily task into something fun.  He did not take himself or the world too seriously.  He understood the most important aspects of life are family, friends … joy.  He really lived.

He encouraged me.  He listened to me.  He taught me many things.  He made me laugh – a lot.  He had this effect on everyone around him.

I will miss him.  I will think of him often.  I am thankful that his soul was shared with me and with all of us.

And just to make him smile, in 2021 whenever something is frustrating or tough or troubling, I will honor him with the promise that I will not take myself too seriously, I will live in the moment, I will laugh, and I will love my people.  “Life is short, buy the Tesla.”

This article was written by CFNLA CEO Kristi Gustavson and originally published in the Shreveport Times on November 29, 2020.