The final scene of the iconic 1982 science fiction thriller, Blade Runner, is given to Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer who passed away in July. Hauer’s character says, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
Last week we were working on the gate at the end of our driveway, and the sweat glittered on our brows while we were distracted by the task at hand. A car slowed down and a neighbor spoke to us from the window. We had not seen her for months, and she brought the sad news that her husband had passed away recently.
Our neighbor and her husband were relatively new to the valley, and we had been “meaning to” visit them again, had spoken of it several times, had driven by without knocking when the house looked empty, and had utterly failed to follow up on our good intentions.
I remember how happy he was to have made it to the North Georgia mountains and how interesting his stories were in our brief visit. I’m sure his family will preserve and cherish his memory, but to us, the opportunity to better know our neighbor and share in his life experience is gone forever.
Opportunities are abundant in our lives, but they are ephemeral, and often invisible. When they do appear, they tend to manifest as a “cubic centimeter of chance,” and if we are not alert and agile enough to grasp them, they are lost to us.
I keep with me a few “talismans” of thought to remind me to stay alert. One of these is the memory of an opportunity lost. When my ailing mother asked me to stay another night in the family home at Christmastime, I did not know that it was her last Christmas. I don’t remember what was more important at the time. I don’t remember much of the previous night, which was in fact the last holiday night we spent together, but I’ll always remember the loss of the opportunity to spend one more night.
There is an arrowhead on my dresser that teaches and sometimes lectures me. It was crafted with great skill and attention to detail. The concentration necessary to create a tool of such beauty and efficiency must have been remarkable.
I know nothing of the hand that created it; will never see the face of the person who wielded it or know the stories he could have told. The adventures, the triumphs, the failures, the loves and the fears, the wisdom of the life he lived, all of these are gone and forgotten, like tears in the rain.
But I do remember the day I found that arrowhead. I remember the trip across the mountain to our grandparents house. I remember my grandparents singing in the kitchen and the sweetbread my grandmother made. I remember the whole family spread out across the freshly plowed field, hunting happily for the opportunity of an arrowhead to appear. I remember the joyful shouts whenever we found one.
Sometimes the most valuable opportunity is the chance to make a memory. My arrowhead reminds me to continue the hunt as time plows on, ever alert for the opportunities that may be unearthed.