I’ve tried to write this reflection so many times over the last few weeks. Unsuccessfully. A friend of mind died unexpectedly. He’s all I can think about right now — every morning, his name, on repeat — but writing about how I feel about his death makes me feel disgusting. I don’t want to write a sentimental reflection about how sad I’m feeling. I don’t want to write about how his death has taught me how important it is to live my life; life is fleeting, live each day like it’s your last. His life is worth more than anything that can be turned into a pithy inspirational quote whose purpose is to soothe my ego and my fear of the ‘next’ that may or may not come in my own life.
Still, I am going to try and write something about his death, about his life, about how much he meant to me, because these are the only honest topics that I can write about right now. And I want to be honest. I want to tell you that he was a terrifically kind person. Generous. Funny. He was a poet and filmmaker. He was a writer, a ‘wordsmith and idea alchemist’ (in his own words). I remember listening to music with him through a smart phone on the sea wall, the music playing on a low volume so we wouldn’t disturb anyone else. He once told me that he wanted to rename the letter W to ‘Wuh’ because he thought that it deserved to have its own identity, and when I learned about his death this was one of the first memories I got smacked with. I actually wrote a poem about it. Sat in my room and lit a candle. Wrote for two hours. Cried. Read what I wrote out loud. Cried some more. His life ended, abruptly. Of course I’ve cried. Of course I’ve felt angry.
My tears are honest. The excruciating ache in my heart is honest. His death and all the words I have at my disposal to miss him with feel empty. All I have are stock phrases meant to evoke emotion.
Concepts like death and forever have explanations that are incredibly unsatisfying.
“… that there are limits upon sharing
as on pain and love
not to mention time,
which I am always mentioning
like a clock
that makes the round trip
of its boundaries over,
over, over, over
til it stops
at one fencepost for ever.”
– Robin Skelton, Limits
After learning about his death, I felt instantly overwhelmed by the impermanence and importance of his life. That his life had meaning, not just to him, but to me. Has meaning to all the people who love him. I can’t make the word ‘love’ read as a past tense experience. The added ‘d’ doesn’t belong there. No. To call him “nothing but a memory now” – which I did – feels heartless and inaccurate. He was alive. That will always be true. My friend wasn’t always dead. At one point, not very long ago, he was alive.
Death is final. I don’t know how to relate to it. So here’s how I feel: angry, sometimes apathetic, sad. Really sad. There’s nothing to fix. Nothing to explain. ‘Death is just apart of life’ but my friend was only 29 and I miss him.