I have regrets that eat at my heart.

When I was 8-years-old, I met a friend. He was best friends with my friend’s brother. Yeah, he was a boy, and boys at that age would terrorize girls here and there, but even at the age of 10, he was sweet and tenderhearted and would show that side of him more often than not.

Aside from the occasional moments at school when I’d see him in the playground, I wouldn’t see him again for about five or six years when we were in marching band together. We weren’t particularly close, but we’d chat on occasion. When something happened to my mom after one of our competitions, he and his mom rallied the troops and took care of us with phone calls and meal deliveries from several families in the band.

Once he graduated, I didn’t see him a whole lot. Maybe during homecoming here and there. Then we crossed paths again several years later when we both worked at the Happiest Place on Earth, though in two different departments. Whenever I was playing in the Park, I’d go by his attraction to see if he was working and say hi and give him a hug and whatnot. He was always smiling. I once talked to one of the leads at his attraction, and she’d done his interview to become a lead. The vote was unanimous: we all loved the guy.

He and I lost touch again some time later, and at that time, it would be for good.

I found out about a half-year after it happened that he passed away in a tragic accident.

I was heartbroken to hear it happened, and I think I was more angry at myself that I didn’t even know. A mutual friend had given a shout out to him in the program of his junior recital in college, and I found out then.

Can I really say I lost a friend? Was I a good enough friend to him to really have been considered a friend? Were the handful of hugs and smiles and hellos enough to have qualified me as a friend?

I have regrets.

He and I weren’t that close, and the opportunity to be close won’t ever come again in this life. Our paths won’t cross on this side of Heaven. I didn’t know him well enough to know what his walk of faith was like, how much he loved his Savior, how he desired to serve Him with his unique talents.

A certain social media site alerted me to his birthday yesterday before I went to bed. Which means in a few weeks, another significant date will swing around.

I don’t want to remember these dates. I don’t want to have a black spot on my calendar every year and be a huge lump of sad, especially when we weren’t even particularly close enough for me to mourn this much. Is that a weird statement? Do I need to know someone to a certain level before I can be allowed mourn them?

It is absolutely a regret of mine that I didn’t know him better. It is absolutely a regret that I couldn’t even be there for him the way he was there for me. But I don’t want to remember these dates because it’s not about what or how I feel when they come; it’s about the life that was lived in between them.

I want to remember the boy who scooped a worm out of the pool for me when I was 8 (and probably killed a few spiders as well). I want to remember the young man who took time out of his Thanksgiving to make sure my mom and I were okay. I want to remember the smiles and the hugs that we blessed each other with when our meetings were reduced to passing each other at work.

I want to remember him.

The regret will eat at me—how can it not? I really missed out on something and someone special. But will I allow regret to swallow up his memory and the special days that belong to him alone?

I don’t want to. And so all I can do is pray that I give all the emotions I feel to Jesus and lay them at the cross. In return, I will thank that same Jesus for the life and friend He blessed me and so many others with for a period of time.

Thank You for this friendship, no matter how brief it was. Let his legacy continue, and let it be a blessing to You.