It was December 2011. I was having dinner with my friend J.B. By eight pm, the meal was coming to an end. We wished each other happy holidays. We made plans to get together again after the new year. J.B headed off to his home in the burbs. I was off to mine in Edgewater. It was a scene we had done many time over the years.
Four hours later, I received a call. J.B. was dead. He had a heart attack. He was gone before the ambulance arrived.
Almost eight years later, I'm still trying to figure that one out. How can you be with someone, have everything be fine and then it drastically, horribly changes minutes later? The events of that night shook me to my core. It wounded me deep into my soul. Over the next couple of weeks, a few other deaths followed. Although they were painful, none hurt as much as that first, unexpected one. It caused me to do some some self re-evaluation and make some changes in my life...most of them bad. Those decisions sent me into a downward spiral. It took a few years and a lot of therapy to recover.
As you can see, I don't deal with death very well. I'm not sure why. At my age, I've seen plenty of it. Both my parents are gone. Plenty of relatives, friends and acquaintances have died, too. You'd think the more experience you have with dealing with it, the easier it gets? It doesn't!
That brings us to Monday. I woke up to the news of the sudden passing of a childhood friend. He was fine on Sunday night. Monday morning, he was feeling ill and called a friend for help. By the time medical people could get to him, he was gone. Sad! Stunning! Shocking!
In the last decade, all my contact with him had been through social media sites. Over the last ten years, we've had almost daily discussions about music, sports, families, lifelong friends, childhood memories and politics...lots of politics. Just Saturday, we were talking about a post I wrote about the Woodstock anniversary. Two days later, he's gone and I can't wrap my head around it. I don't know if I'll ever understand this.
It's been hard to function anywhere close to normally for the last twenty-four or so hours. I'm sure it like this for most of our mutual friends and classmates. The comradery and memories shared has helped. Still, it's hard to think of anything else. It's been hard to shut my brain off. I was awake until after four am last night. Every time I was close to falling asleep, something new and disturbing popped into my head. It's feelings like these that keeps therapists in business.
I know myself and my friends will feel better about this one day. We'll remember all the good times from our past. The memories will bring smiles. But today's not going to be that day. The shock and despair is still new and raw. I'm planning on wallowing in my sadness for at least another few hours. I'll be thinking of my friend Howie (yeah, our names are the same) and hoping he's adjusting to whatever is next. I'm also remembering my friend J.B. Hmmm...maybe they'll meet up. They both loved The Grateful Dead and The Band. Say hello to Jerry and Levon for me.
Peace my friends. See you on the other side.
Related Post: Eulogy for a Friend
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