There’s a picture of this someone hanging on the pole, framed in a heart of plastic red and white roses. I don’t remember when it suddenly appeared. But since then, seasonally there have been remembrances: a fake Christmas tree (that was stolen but then replaced), a Palm Sunday cross, Easter lilies, spring tulips, and recently, a pot of marigolds.
I keep expecting the remembrances to stop, not sure why, since from the picture, he was a fairly young man. Maybe someone’s father. Death clearly was not in his cards.
Still, I keep expecting time will begin to heal. If not heal, at least allow for the bereaved to settle into a new way of living. To learn to sidestep weak ground. To stop leaving Christmas trees and flowers.
Today, I had to call my husband at work to tell him that his best friend has died. The Best Man at our wedding. The man who was at my husband’s bedside when he had to undergo surgery, while I had to stay home with our two-week-old nursing newborn.
That he had been found dead under his desk. We’re waiting the autopsy report. And my husband had to get back to work.
Here’s the thing. I just talked to him a few days ago. About how long it had been since we’d seen him, and we made plans for him to come over in July on his vacation.
This is not the first death I’ve encountered that arose too much out of the ordinary – that was far too simple somehow. A friend’s brother died just as suddenly, of a heart attack while watching TV. My son’s preschool teacher’s daughter died in a car crash this past Memorial Day, on the way to a wedding. Just as my 24-year-old cousin died eight years ago; he ran into a construction site. I’d just met him for lunch a couple of weeks before. He’d walked me to my train station.
Not that I think dying is better prolonged. But neither should it be so sudden as to seem ordinary.
Or maybe the word isn’t “ordinary.” It is “natural.” Death is part of living, of course, right? We are reminded of that every time we swat at a mosquito.
Natural or not, the suddenness of an unexpected loss, leaves you with no final words. Not even the rambling words, as when my father was dying, and I went on about nothing of consequence. Only about my childhood summers in Vermont at the lake, where he had taught me to swim. He was semiconscious and I had believed that remembered reality would be more real to him than that of the nursing home, the green cutout clover taped to his door for St. Patrick’s Day. The cleaning people mopping the hall. As if that too, were just another ordinary day.
It wasn’t ordinary.
And this. This sudden death of my husband’s best high school buddy is not ordinary. It is not natural. Because the ordinariness of that last encounter, a phone call, was far too casual. Sure. See you in July.
I guess that’s why the people who loved that man, keep returning to that telephone pole, with more memorials. They are still groping with the suddenness of their loss, of that robust man in a baseball shirt. Smiling in the photo, maybe taken in one of those mall photo booths. A quick and fun moment.
When the fresh marigolds die by the pole, there will be new ones.
“See you in July.”
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