Archive for August, 2015

On The Day You Died.


2015
08.29

On the day you died, I was on my way to visit you one last time. Your wife had called the night before, saying you were in a hospice room and she wasn’t sure how much longer you would last. She was an emotional mess; alternately laughing and crying the way people do when life has kicked them in the gut. So I was finishing my morning coffee (because my morning starts later than most people’s) and was on my way out the door when another friend called to let me know you had died early that morning.

On the day you died, I understood what it meant to have the wind knocked out of the sails. I had seen you a week earlier; I knew your prognosis, I knew you were dying. How odd the difference between “dying” and “dead.” Dying means we could still see you, even if you had lost your voice and your hair and your strength, but Dead meant there was no more you, at least not in the corporeal sense, and nobody left to visit or reminisce with or simply be next to, if even for one last time.

Being alive comes with the knowledge that one day we will be dead. Your mortality arrived long before anyone expected it, and did its worst, and took you away, all in a short span of time. You always moved through life somewhat slowly, examining and questioning and puzzling things out, but you created a wonderful life out of everything you were given and the things you chose: a wonderful wife, happy kids, a beautiful home, a good career, travel, cars and motorcycles, painting and sketching, tinkering in your garage, always curious and always optimistic. Always available to the people who needed you. A good life for a good, good man.

I liked you from the first day you interviewed me for a job. Later we discovered we had both been married on the same date, and spent our wedding nights across the street from one another. What serendipity! I thought about all the things we laughed about and had shared during our nearly 40 years of friendship. The time we went to Traverse City for work, and rented a car and drove around to see the sights. The waitress who said, “Speak, pumpkin,” and made us laugh. The 900 pound self-propelled lawnmower you loaned me when I moved out to the country. The computer class we took together in the 1980s, and the office chair you used to ride down the ramp at the office. Your weird electronic retirement planner. How you urged me to save for retirement, even though I laughed at the notion. (Thanks to that urging, I’m retired with money!) We were together in your office when the Challenger exploded.  I dreaded your retirement, and couldn’t imagine who would ever take your place at work, and nobody really ever did. Nobody ever did things the way you did them. When I took my car in for repairs recently, you were the person assigned to drive me home and pick me up again. We laughed every block of the way. I always think of you as a good listener, an easy laugher, one of the best friends a person could ever have, and someone who made every day brighter.

On the day you died, a doe appeared at your hospice window. You opened your eyes and you and the doe stared at one another for a while. The doe loped away. You closed your eyes and died.

On the day of your funeral, a doe strolled across the avenue in front of my car, slowly enough for me to see her rusty colored coat, her white tail, her upright head, and the wondrous beauty and puzzlement of life.

 

JD