I lost a dear friend this week to a sudden cardiac event. It happened without warning, leaving us shocked, and so very sad. He was not an old man- just a few years older than me. He was not the guy you would look at and think, “oh, he’s a walking heart attack”. He was fit. He ate well. He loved people with his whole heart. And, finally, he was happy in his life, married to a man he adored. The world will never be the same without his light. Precious few souls on the earth are as kind, generous and sweet as he was. I hope there is a heaven for him, full of wine and kittens. And, I hope he knew how much he was loved and admired while he was here on the earth.
I’ll never forget the way we became friends. We lived across the breezeway from each other in a little apartment building in the suburbs a few years ago. We had a terrible ice storm, and were iced in for a few days. By the third day of being trapped in our little apartments, we were all stir crazy. We couldn’t get our cars out to drive anywhere. But, there was a little Mexican restaurant just about two blocks away. My girlfriend in the apartment below and I bundled up and walked there for tacos and Margaritas. As luck would have it, there was also a Kroger in the same shopping center. We filled a shopping cart with beer and snacks, and pushed it all the way home. We knocked on every door in the building and invited everyone to my place for game night.
Jim was one of the neighbors who came to our little snow day party. He showed up with a bottle of Fireball and a nervous smile. We drank and played cards, and for the first time ever, we all talked and really got to know each other. We were all in transition phases of life. One couple newly wed, another couple expecting their first little one, myself still healing from a difficult divorce, and sweet Jim starting over after his divorce, too.
Later into the night, after much drink and laughing, one of the gentlemen began boasting that he’s very good at reading people. Jim piped up and said, “That’s great, but you didn’t read me very well.” They went back and forth for a minute, the other gentleman repeating that he knew Jim was a great guy, he was a professional type, probably a nerd…
“Well, sure. But you missed something ,” he said. “I’m also gay.”
He stammered, “but… you have kids?”
“Yes. Two kids. I was married to a woman for thirteen years.”
My jaw hit the floor. “Oh my God! You, too?”
He looked at me confused. I explained that my ex-husband is also gay, we also had two children together, and were also married thirteen years. He put his arms around me and right there in front of the whole group, we cried together.
He was the first person I had ever met who had lived through the same twisted confusing hell of unraveling a life that was never meant to be. I had so many questions, and so did he. Though our experiences were very different, there were so many things that were the same- and so many things for us to talk about. We were friends from that moment, and Jim quickly became one of my favorite people.
I’ve said before, there is nothing more healing in the whole world than realizing that you’re not alone in your suffering and struggles. I wholeheartedly believe that the universe conspired to bring Jim and I together so both of us could heal and move forward in our lives. And, that’s just what we did.
We both advanced in our careers, our financial situations improved, we both found love, and eventually, we moved out of our little transition apartments. We cheered each other on through the growth and change that came. Somehow, we ended up on opposite sides of the city. We stayed in touch, but regretfully, hadn’t seen each other in months when he passed away.
We spoke occasionally, always ending the conversation with, “we should get together soon.” And, certainly, I think we both meant it. We loved and missed each other. We had every intention of meeting again. We were both planning weddings. Both needed to talk and laugh and cry and drink wine and look at cat memes. But, sadly, we will not meet again in this lifetime. This is my deepest sorrow in losing my friend. I let days turn into months of “we should,” but never did.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I can take from this tragedy, is that tomorrow is never promised to us. Tomorrow is a wish, a dream, a whisper of what might be. We spend our lives taking tomorrow for granted, expecting that it will always come. But, sometimes it doesn’t. This is why we must live every single day we’re alive. We must love those we love every day, and express our gratitude for their contributions in our lives. We must do the things we’ve set out to do- chipping away at those long held goals, or illusive dreams- lest we die with our songs unsung, our books unwritten, our mountains unclimbed.
Losing a friend so suddenly has me facing my own mortality, health, and relationships. I’ve been in survival mode too long. My days are better spent in pursuit of wellbeing and service to others than in pursuit of money at the cost of everything else. All the things I’ve dreamt of doing “someday” must make their way to my calendar now- before I run out of somedays. All of the people I love need to know- today and every day – how important they are to me, and how much I value the ways they shape my life. And, all my dreams need to be placed permanently at the top of my list of priorities, so I don’t leave this earth with my story untold.
Tonight, I will celebrate my friend, Jim. I’m so grateful for his friendship, his impeccable pet sitting services, his ability to steal my cat photos from social media and turn them into hilarious memes before anyone hit the like button, his kindness, openness, and dedication to living a life he loved. It’s my greatest sadness that his time here was cut short- right when his most authentic, happiest life had begun.
Tonight, I will wrap my arms around Jim’s husband, Billy, and right there in front of everyone, we will cry as we remember the great man that Jim was. We will cry for the somedays that never will be, and the dreams that will leave the earth with Jim’s sweet spirit. I will tell Billy, “we should get together someday,” and I will make damn sure that we do.
Life is short. Don’t waste a minute, friends. Life is now– now is the only guarantee we get here.
Godspeed, sweet Jim. You will be missed more than words can say. Thank you for helping me heal through some of the toughest years of my life. Thank you for sharing your unmasked truth with me, and always listening so compassionately. Thank you for leaving me with these lessons, though I wish they could have come another way. You were a very important person in my life, and I will always remember you.