“Your friend is dead.” The clear voice of Death was at my door.
Again comes the knock, this time louder, “Your friend is dead.”
Go away! What is so urgent you must call at this hour?
What do you mean dead? She’s only in her 50s. She can’t be…
If she’s dead then I can die, too. What is the meaning of life? Why are we even…
How must he be? How sad I am for him; he has lost her. Oh, I hurt so much for him…
Go away now. I am angry. I want to be alone. I hurt so much for all of us…
There were five couples in our group. I nicknamed us the “Shirt Friends” because we had dinner parties to celebrate our birthdays and we always gave shirts for presents. Our mutual friend pieced our little band together: childless or with children, right-winged or left-winged, gourmet chefs (them) down-home cooks (us). Somehow the price for admission was just the ability to drink red wine and to laugh. I mean the kind of laughter that made tears stream down your face and that you felt in your cheeks and stomach muscles the next day.
My friend is dead.
She was a few years older than I. She went to the same high school and I can vividly remember looking at my older sister’s yearbook and admiring her. Before she was my friend she was homecoming queen; famous for her ability to drink shots of liquor and stay standing as, one by one, the football players would tumble. Before she was my friend she was a gymnast. And once she mud wrestled, a story she used to tell just to get a reaction from the crowd.
The Shirt Friends were once wildly happy together. Cancer, other illnesses, children’s addictions, deaths: we could imagine those things away—”spit in their general direction” we would say to each other—and get on with drinking our wine and eating our tasty grub. More laughter more wine and then the birthday cards would be circulated. How many times did we sit around the table for four, five, six hours and just laugh?
Eventually our little band dismantled due mostly to a divorce among us but also because our mutual friend was in failing health. It has been many years since we all sat and laughed together. Too many years.
How fragile is this life that just a blink ago my friend was cooking bolognese and crème brûlée and now she is gone from us forever?
I want to tell Death to leave me alone but I know that won’t happen. I will see him over and over in my lifetime and then he will come for me. Without death we would not often contemplate how much a person has meant to us in our lifetime. If they are not gone from us forever, we perhaps will forget to miss them.
Goodbye my beautiful friend. I have missed you. I will miss you.
We had joy, we had fun, We had seasons in the sun, But the wine and the song, like the seasons have all gone. —Terry Jacks