Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Friend

When I outlined my 2009 goals, making a new friend somehow found its way onto the list. I don't know if living in a new area provided the impetus for that addition or whether I just felt that intentionally making a new friend would be good for me. In any case, it seemed important at the time so I added it to the list. And I had no interest in just another acquaintance. A friend, by my loose definition, is someone I can call in time of need and someone who would call me in time of need. Either that or anyone who would buy me a beer (or a glass of wine) from time to time, and vice-versa.

A couple of days ago I received some news that both shocked and deeply saddened me. A friend of mine from Florida, who I worked closely with for 5 years, passed away. Most of you have lost a friend or family member, making my loss of words to adequately describe my feelings probably understandable to you. I really liked this guy...this husband and father. He died before he reached 50. I enjoyed his company and his friendship. God only made one of him.

I wanted to cuss, but none of the cuss words I know (and I'm intimately acquainted with plenty of them) come even close to saying what I wanted to say...what I needed to say. I'm still angry and hurt and shocked and angry...and ANGRY! Paul, the Apostle, once asked the question: Death where is your sting? I'll tell you where the hell Death's sting is: right here with the ones who grieve and struggle and are left behind. My friend may very well be in a better place, but we're not...I'm not. I used to have a room in the house of my life where this friend lived and breathed and had the keys to, and vice-versa...now I don't. I do have the memories…and healing will come, but no matter where the logic train begins and ends my heart will never be the same, this side of heaven. He's gone and no matter how hard I try I will never, ever make contact with him until I pass on as well.

In some ways what disturbs me most only incidentally connects with my friend's death. I despise how his departure reminds me that I too will pass on...my loved ones as well. I hate knowing that I have very little to say about when or how I, or the ones I love, move on from this world...and I hate not actually knowing when or how. To put it bluntly, this whole death thing just creeps me out. I don't agree with it and I don't like it. I'm anti-death. Blame it on God, blame it on the Devil, blame it on man, blame it on me...it doesn't change anything...theology doesn't fix it...explanations don't make the tears and the hurt cease.

When I look at the flip side of the I-don't-know-when/how-death coin, it motivates me to engage life more fully. Much of what I hope to accomplish in this world has yet to be started in earnest, and I don’t want to end my days in that same predicament. Each moment seems a bit more precious, more important…just more. I want to savor it and then drink it in deeply, without reservation. I want to see my fiction writing career become more reality and less of a dream. I want my writing platform to provide the foundation for connecting with others. I want that connection to result in change, and joy, and healing for all of us…forever and for good.

Others feel my friend’s loss more fully and more intimately than I - his wife and children, other long-term friends. All of us who knew him have memories, and mine are all good. He always treated me with respect and kindness. We laughed together...often. He made me feel special...important...significant. None of those times disappear, but the next times with him have vanished from the realm of life here on Earth.

I don’t think I’ll ever really understand or accept the whole now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t routine. The stages of grief according to some experts consist of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I kind of get that but part of me will always be in denial about this death thing. I mean, it’s not like I’ve experienced death and lived to tell about it like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (one of my favorite movies). How can I not be in denial at some level regarding something I haven’t experienced or couldn’t possibly relate to another life event? Loss sucks but Death sucks big time.

In any case, I raise the glass to my friend. A man who made my life better...a man who made me better. Maybe achieving my goal of adding a new friend to my world will help soothe the pain, and bring some healing. Maybe. Knowing that the possibility of a deep hurt like losing a friend could await me down the road dampers the excitement a bit. I know this much: if I could spend one more moment with my recently departed friend, even if I knew it to be our last, I would want that opportunity…and I would spend that one more moment with him…with my friend.


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