The twisty path that life takes us down sometimes brings us into the circle of a person we can call friend. We may meet at the home of a mutual friend, or we may meet in a writing group. Over time we get to know and like them. We look forward to seeing them; indeed, we expect to see them at certain parties, as if they were the underpinning of the entire event.
When they are suddenly taken from this life with no advance warning, you are stunned, feeling as if you were ambushed by their death.
Perhaps it was a close friend, or maybe it was a person you were only beginning to know well. Either way we are faced with a disconcerting feeling of being left behind—not that we wanted to die, but rather that we didn’t want a person we cared about to leave without us.
The friend who would help you bury the body.
That loss is a tearing, shattering pain time may ease, but which always leaves a scar. Every person handles this experience in a different way. Some of us become better people through surviving a devastating personal loss, and some do not.
The death of a friend who is more than simply an acquaintance, yet not intimately tangled in your life is a different kind of loss.
It’s one we will all experience, and perhaps it’s not as profound as the loss of your best friend, but it is no less shocking and disconcerting. That death is experienced differently than if he were a friend who is a close family member.
He is someone we had known only a few years, a friend we were only beginning to really know. He is someone who is in many ways a mystery although we regularly met at parties and social events. He is someone with whom we have enjoyed long conversations over wine and cheese, shared risqué jokes, and laughed at the incongruities of life.
We had only started to walk the road of life together, only begun to know him as a traveling companion, and suddenly he is gone.
When a friend who is not yet close to you dies, a hole is left in your life, a hole filled with possibilities, packed with the prospect of what your friendship could have grown into, given more time and more parties.
Although it’s comforting to know that he touched more lives than just ours, it’s hard to realize we’ll never talk about wine with him again, never see him standing in that spot he always claimed in Nancy’s kitchen, never see him and his little dogs again.
Never hear him tease, “Vegan chili is an oxymoron,” as he serves himself at the buffet.
It’s hard to imagine him going alone into that unknowable frontier we must all eventually pass into, hard to imagine him letting go of this life when he was so vivid and filled with energy and passion for his art the last time we saw him. I will never pour a glass of wine again without thinking of our good friend who loved the craft and the art of wine-making so much, and whose wines were the source of many happy moments for many more people than just me.
His many friends are now feeling the same sense of loss and confusion I am feeling. My heart goes out to his close family and to our dear friends Michael and Nancy, intimate friends of his who are stunned and bereft; loved ones who still can’t believe he’s gone.
Patrick—our glass will always be half-full, because of the joy and companionship of good friends like you.