My heart skipped a beat and I spilled my coffee.
I was sitting down, getting ready to read some poetry, getting caught up on a class. The day was lovely, sunny, not too cold, just right for October and my health was being friendly, a field trip being allowed to Barnes & Noble, settling in for hours of work.
Then I received the post, the status, the shock.
A childhood friend died, unexpectedly, suddenly.
Our families all knew each other. 25 years in the same town, the paths cross, the kids knew the other kids - we were the kids, adults now with our own families, and he died.
I was dumbfounded and unbelieving that this good looking, vibrant, laughing, playful, husband, lawyer, brother, son left this world. Just like that. Pfft! gone!
It is just that he is only a year older than I am, if that, too young. He and his wife had been married for twenty years, a lifetime, they made two sons and a daughter. His time wasn't over yet, wasn't finished.
The marvels of cyber-communication is how the news circumvented the states in no time, reaching even around the world as one by one, those of us who were in that cohort growing up registered our shock, our unbelief, our grief. This just could not be.
And it was at the start of homecoming weekend, a prized time of fellowship, togetherness, memories, one he always took part in, from what I remember of him in our college days. Many were already in town for the festivities.
His heart, that is what stopped a life not finished.
I just sat there, had to text my husband, needed to let him know, he never met this childhood friend, Juney, but he needed to know that someone in my cohort left this space too soon. When did we reach the age that our mortality would be an issue?
There were others that left us too soon. Elaine and Keith and Jeff, before they even breathed a time of opportunity. We remember them, twenty-one was the first time I dealt with my conflicting emotions of disbelief that one day someone was here and the next day gone.
We've gotten older and cyber-communication has reconnected many of us from our town and we learned that Hugh passed on and others are struggling to life fully.
I felt a keen sense of a need to go home, not having a home to go to now that my parents are deceased, but feeling like I needed to get in the car and drive the two hours to be in the same air as the place I grew up and created the beginnings of myself.
When I text my husband, he expressed his sorrow for me, for us. He was walking into a funeral of one of his former students whose mother had passed away days before. Death swirling around, coming at expected and unexpected times.
Reality hit me as I processed the news. We are all getting older. My father once told me that "I have more days behind me than I do before me." And he died a short two years after that. I wasn't finished being his daughter, needing his hugs, hearing his voice, just like Juney's little girl will never have him dance with her at her debutante or wedding, will never tie his sons' tie for graduation, will never hold his precious wife again. His days ended too soon.
So what do we feel, those of us who grew up in that magical place in that magical time? What do we do with the thoughts and memories and collective sorrow that even while we are not in sight every day or even living near each other anymore, what do we do with our shared history of space and time that causes all of us at once to be in shock that he is gone? What do we do with that void?
Homecoming is nearing her gentle close today, Sunday, the gospel concerts usually happening now and the travel back in full gear. Tomorrow, we will pick up, go back to work or school or tend to the children's needs.
We live,that is what we do, how we handle it, how we process it. We keep going and smile in remembering. Even as next week marks the one year anniversary of one so dear to me who was taken from us before she was finished; I know that my dash is not complete yet, there is the next breath, the next inhalation of air, the next heartbeat.
Go on, live, that is what we do.
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