It is the middle of winter. Near midnight, the TV is on with the sound off. In my younger days, I would be watching Carson or a movie, but now, fifteen years, 29 days into the 21st Century, my phone starts buzzing with emails and I have to open up my computer to respond.
Within a few minutes, I am aware that someone has died suddenly. Then I find out who. A friend of mine’s husband. Good man. Cause unknown as I write this.
Death comes at its’ own pace. It is not like a birth, when it is celebrated and anticipated. It comes quickly in the form of a heart attack or stroke or Sepsis (“like an atomic bomb going off inside you,” a friend of mine told me after his wife died from it). Sometimes, it can be violent, like an accident or crime. Other times, it comes slowly, like with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, or its’ devilish cousin, dementia. Cancer can come and go as it pleases, but death is always the end result. We’re all going to die of something, we just don’t know when.
This was not an old man, this man was middle aged, good-looking-with a full head of hair and a great smile. He will never get to see his son graduate from Notre Dame in May, never get to see him get married or know his grandchilden. Never get to see his step-son, who regarded him as his dad, become a fireman or paramedic. He will never get to grow old gracefully with his wife, whom he loved more than anything or anyone in the world.
He saved his wife, saved her at just the right time as she was coming out of a nasty divorce and abusive marriage. He was her knight in shinning armor, protecting her from the onslaught of words and court battles, always at her side. I only met him once, but he seemed very much at home, knowing who he was and his place in the order of things. I knew his wife a lot better, like forever. We went to school together, survived the 80’s, drifted apart in the 90’s and found each other again through the “magic” of the internet and Zuckerbreg’s revenge site, Facebook. It doesn’t seem fair that only the good people die before the assholes, but it does tend to be that way.
I have heard from people who saw my post on Facebook and emailed or called me to find out what I knew. Everytime I would try to break away from my desk or phone, there’d be another call, email or text asking me what I knew. Which at the end of the day, wasn’t much, but I gave them enough.
Now, he is on the “other” side. It is said that death brings people closer. I think it some cases, it does. But most times, it leaves a void. A void that can never be filled. It has been a busy day, for sure, but at the end of a crazy day, we must remember that we are on this planet for a short time and death reminds us, the living, to keep on living the best we can with what we have.
This man saved a life. My friend’s life. She will live in that void, go through the five stages and hopefully find some peace with it. All her friends like me can do is be there for her when she yells “help.”
We are all human. Everyone of us will complete the circle of life. We are all mortal (except for Keith Richards) and some of us will die suddenly, some will die gradually, others will be a slow, slow sunset into that good night.
“And when I die, when I’m gone,
They’ll be one child born to carry on,
to carry on, yeah.”