On the Death of a Friend

It was a strange weekend.

A colleague of mine at the office, Lance Woods, did an autographing of his first novel, Heroic Park, at a bookstore about ten minutes from the house, so Saturday afternoon I drove up to Reisterstown. There was a nice group of people crowded into the bookstore, all people I knew through fandom. Alan Chafin was there. So, too, were Steve Wilson and Sharon Van Blarcom.

It was a good thing, too. I needed the outing.

You see, I had found out that morning that a friend of mine from North Carolina had died two weeks earlier.

As connected as the world is today, news still gets missed. However its algorithms determined what I needed to see, Facebook never showed me the status updates when she passed away. Instead, I saw her son’s status update yesterday morning that he was on his way to her memorial service.

“That’s not right,” I thought. Two minutes of Google searches and the scouring of a Facebook profile, and I came to the unfortunate realization that it was right. She had passed away two weeks ago. While the obituary I read online said nothing about a cause of death, I had a pretty good idea.

Frankly, I felt like I’d been kicked in the head and punched in the gut. I wanted to curl up in the corner and cry. In quiet moments it would strike me forcefully that she was gone, and I’d find the world turn suddenly blurry. Gloom followed me, and when I went to Lance’s autographing I made sure to be at my best because it was his moment. But when I walked out of the bookstore, got in the Beetle, and put the key in the ignition, the world went massively blurry.

Though I fancied her, she was just a friend.

I couldn’t tell you the first time I met her, but I have a pretty good idea of what our last conversation was before I left North Carolina. I gave her a hug. She needed it.

We exchanged Christmas cards every year. People who receive Christmas cards from me are special people and important people. She sent me religious cards and inscribed religious thoughts in the cards I received from her over the years. I made sure I sent her cards that read “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.”

I guess this year I’ll have to send her son a Christmas card.

I’m being vague, I know, and in part it’s because I feel guilty for feeling as gutted as I’ve been. I’d not seen her in six years, other than the Christmas cards we hadn’t communicated since I left North Carolina. There’s a part of me that feels that I shouldn’t feel the way I have.

But I do. She was a friend and she mattered, she left behind a lot of people who loved her and valued her. From time to time I still think about the security guard I used to see every day who died suddenly a few years ago that I didn’t even know, mostly because I have to walk past where he guarded every day on my trek to work. The people in my life, whose paths cross with mine, matter greatly to me.

The good news is, today is better than yesterday. I’ve had no significant blurry moments. I’ll take that as a good sign.

I’ll also take as a good sign the victory of the Nationals over the St. Louis Cardinals, especially when the early innings reminded me, in a bad way, of game 1 of the 2008 NLDS series between the Cubs and Dodgers, where Ryan Dempster struggled to find the plate and the Cubs struggled against a team that, on paper, they were much better than.

Strange weekend.

Now to read some Heroic Park. And hope that the Orioles will rid us of those turbulent Yankees.

One thought on “On the Death of a Friend

  1. You have my sympathies. I just went through a similar situation with a friend of mine back in June – well, more like “going through” since I still have many days where I miss her terribly. And still dealing with my regrets of having not been there for here more (among other things).

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