I lost two friends recently, one after a year-long illness and the other out of the blue, a sudden, tragic accident.
My friend who died this week from illness was in his seventies, big and tall with curly gray hair. He loved good food and wine and was a great host. Many times I’d watch him hold a glass of burgundy to the light studying color and clarity. He’d stick his nose inside, breathing in aromas and subtle scents only he could smell.
Finally, he’d swish the liquid in his mouth before taking a sip. He’d close his eyes with pleasure, a happy man.
My other friend was in her fifties. She was tall and thin with auburn hair and a quick, strong laugh. Our children played together over twenty years ago. My son’s first trick or treating experience was with her boy. We stood smiling on the sidewalk, watching our four year-olds knock on the doors, candy bags clutched in hand.
Later she made cappuccinos while they poured out their treasures, faces pink with excitement. Her sudden death this year on a beautiful September afternoon came as a shock.
Although I didn’t see them often, I still find it strange they’re gone. If I wanted to pick up the phone and call, they wouldn’t be there.
Like actors on a stage they took their bows and made their exits. They lived out their allotted time. And like all living creatures, I’m left wondering where the hell they went.
We hear about death each day, most of the time far away, but sometimes it draws closer. After my second friend died, I saw how human concerns seem trivial, but are somehow comforting.
Should we get an organic turkey for Thanksgiving? Should we trade in our son’s car? What’s the best company for an energy audit? Bills need to be paid and errands run and the house cleaned. The deceased are free of all that.
Now in late fall, days are getting shorter and colder. Leaves once green have lived out their lives, swirling down in golden spirals. With death comes a renewed appreciation for friends and loved ones.
We’re all we’ve got left, like survivors huddled together on an island.
Someday we’ll each take our bow and make our exit. But in the meantime, all we can do is live life and enjoy — laugh like her and hold up wine to the light like him. Take a sip and close our eyes.
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