I was in the midst of the work of the day when I got an urgent phone call on my office voicemail. It told me to call back right away.
I didn’t have a chance at that moment, but I thought I’d better call back quickly.
I didn’t get the opportunity.
Before I could break, my cell phone rang. I answered it and it was the same person who had left a message on my voicemail. She called to inform me that the son of a very close friend of mine, who had been a part of our lives for so many years, had died in his sleep the night before.
He was in his early 40’s.
I was standing at the time, and I sank back in a chair in utter shock, upset and disarray.
I hadn’t seen the young man for several years, but that really didn’t matter.
I had huge affection for him, his wife and his son as well as for the girlfriends he had courted or seduced along the way of finding himself. And while it was true that it sometimes took a posse to reign him in, all that was behind us as his family occasionally joined forces to help him continue to mend his ways.
Nowadays, I didn’t need to see him to know how he was. It was sufficient for me to hear in the lunches I shared with his mother that all was well, seeing pictures of his gorgeous entourage and knowing he had turned out okay after those early troubling years.
But in an instant he was no more.
The phone call said it all. It was sudden, in his sleep, and this time without any possibility of mending.
He was gone.
And I was sick to my stomach.
I’ll never see him again, interact, or exchange without words, the common history we shared.
I’m not sure how to deal with this although I’m sure it is probably no different than what so many of us live through at stopping points in our lives. But I can say that my heart aches and my gut wrenches to know that this young man, who was the light and life of a family I have known for 30 years, is no more, leaving behind a wife and son, a mother and father, a sister, and a boatload of friends.
Do I grieve because of him?
Do I grieve because of them?
Or do I grieve for myself. . .and for those whom I will leave behind when my time comes, whenever that might be?
It occurred to me, as I reflect on my friend’s son, that each of us might die a thousand deaths in our lifetime. . .of humiliation, despair, hopelessness, fear, futility, failure, worthlessness, betrayal, anguish, and so much more. . .but only one death in this lifetime is lethal . . . only one death really matters . . . and regretably only that death is all too permanent.