This is a copy of the post that I submitted as part of the series that Leslee runs on her blog.
“Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Susanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can’t remember who to send it to
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again”
Fire and Rain- James Taylor
You can find the back story here.
‘D’, it is March of 2010. We turned 40 last year, but in my head I see you as the 29 year-old you were when you left us. When we lived next to the cemetery I used to visit you on a regular basis. I’d come by almost daily and sit next to your grave. Sometimes I’d tell you stories about what was happening in the world and other times I’d sit there quietly.
Been a while since I have come by but don’t think that I have forgotten you. Don’t think that you aren’t a part of my life, because you are and always will be. I miss you. Miss having you around because you were the kind of friend that everyone needs and deserves. Doesn’t mean that you weren’t a bastard at times because you were, we all are.
But you really were like a brother to me and you don’t find many of those in life. If you are smart when someone like that comes into your life you do your damndest to hold onto them because you only get to go round the carousel so many times.
My kids are getting bigger. They see your picture and they know your name. Sometimes they ask me about you, “dad, that is your friend, the one that died right?” I smile and say “yes.” They know a few stories about you and when they get older I’ll tell them more. More importantly I’ll tell them about some of the things that I learned.
I’ll them about how quickly things can change, how life can spin on a dime and how you have to live and love each day. I’ll tell them to treasure their friends and to remember that there are going to be moments where life makes no sense.
Moments where you don’t have a clue as to what to do or how to get through the day. So all you can do is shrug your shoulders and keep moving forward.
One day I’ll tell them about the guilt I still carry to this day. I’ll tell them about that last summer and a missed opportunity. You came home to L.A. and called with an invitation to dinner. I was jet lagged and exhausted. I had just come back from Israel and felt like I was carrying Masada so I asked if we could do it later. You said ok.
I knew that you were sick. I knew that the illness had spread and that they weren’t sure exactly what was going on. But I was naive and didn’t think that the worst would come. Couldn’t believe that you wouldn’t beat the cancer. You had done it twice before and I just believed that you would again.
I was wrong.
You didn’t die that day. In fact it would be around 10 weeks or so later. But something snapped inside and that changed everything. You had a seizure and afterward you couldn’t carry on a normal conversation. ‘D’ the scientist would yell at me for not including the details in this note, but they aren’t important for this.
We were around for that final hurrah. Your friends and family, we visited you daily and saw it all. We watched you slip away. And then at your funeral, we buried you. Not strangers, not some hired hands who didn’t know or love you. We did.
I know, I have written about this before. But, it changed me. And after I became a father it changed me again because losing a child is our greatest fear, an incomprehensible horror. And I have never forgotten the look on your parent’s face as we shoveled the dirt onto your casket.
But it was among the last things that we could do for you. The last physical act of love that we could show and we did it willingly. I do it again, without thought or hesitation because it was the right thing to do. And that is part of this for me.
The right thing to do. I work so very hard to teach my children to do the right thing. To help give them the tools and ability to make smart choices and to do the right thing. But I know from my own experience that I can’t protect them from everything. I can’t promise that the things that go bump in the night will always be just the house settling.
So I lie about some of those things, some but not all. When they ask me if I am going to die I tell them that we all do but that we aren’t going to die for a long time. And that seems to hold them, so I leave it at that. And on those occasions that it doesn’t we discuss it further until they are comfortable.
I am sorry that you didn’t get the chance to experience this part of life because it is amazing. I am sorry that my children never got to meet you or see another example of true friendship. But as I said before, I did learn much from you and from this.
I have always valued friends and family, but I am less likely to pass on opportunities to spend time together. I do my best to do as I teach my children, to live each day to its fullest. Don’t care if it is a cliche, I know better. Life happens, things change. All we can do is roll with it.
You are not forgotten.
"When you're in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, 'Damn, that was fun'." — Groucho Marx
Five Years Later
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Thank you for sharing this very personal and painful story as well as the beautiful lesson that we need to hang on to life.
My friend would be very happy to see that the lessons we learned from this experience are being applied now.
It was a rough way to learn them, but that is how it goes sometimes.
Beautifully written post.
I can relate to the loss and the life changing experience. Thank you for the emotional post.
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