I said goodbye to my friend last week.
Like other memorial services I have been to (there have been far too many), it was somber with the occasional outburst of laughter as good times are recalled, only to be replaced by the reality of the moment.
His wife and children were there; keeping a stoic front, but of course on the inside the pain of his loss was marching through their hearts.
It is sad when anyone you care about dies. But it is even harder when that person is young. My friend was only 51 years old.
Far too young to be taken from this earth. Far too valuable a person to be swept away by the merciless scourge of cancer.
My great-grandmother had a saying, “Old people die when they are old, but young people can die any time.”
She was in advanced stages of dementia when I knew her and would, on occasion, talk to the closet, but during her lucid moments she expressed the wisdom only nine decades of living can provide.
I was a kid back then (and to tell you the truth she used to scare the hell out of me), so her words made little sense at the time, but as I aged I came to understand and appreciate what she meant.
Young people are not supposed to die. A friend of mine from 'back in the day' was not supposed to die of a brain tumour at 28 years old.
Wesley was not supposed to die in an ice fishing accident when we were in Grade 11. That is simply too darn young no matter how you look at it.
I had known him since Grade 1 and he was the first friend I had ever lost. Too many names are etched on the solemn wall of memories in my mind.
Friends, relatives, school mates have all had their names put on that dark, cold reminder they are no longer here.
Death is so final, so complete. When someone moves away, you can still stay in touch with them. You can call them, email them, look them up on FaceBook, or even send them an old-fashioned letter.
They are physically gone, but they are still there, still within reach.
Death steals that from you. Death does not allow any further contact. In its greed, Death wants tto take everything for itself, there is no sharing with the living, no hope of seeing them on this earth again. That greed takes away all future memories you may have had with a loved one.
All that is left are memories of the past. Those recordings of the heart and mind that allows you to relive those relationships. You can lose yourself in those wonderful memories. If only for a little while, you can be reunited with a loved one.
But even then, deep down you know eventually, you will have to return to reality and again feel the sting of loss.
There is nothing special about my mourning. Millions of people mourn the loss of a loved one every second of every day.
Accidents, disease, war and the most horrific of all – suicide – claim loved ones constantly.
Some of us are on this earth longer than others. Even if they do not seem worthy of a long life, death will come for them only when the time is right – no sooner, no later.
But before death, there is life and that is where the magic lies. Life is where you create those memories for, and with your loved ones.
Life is where you can share a laugh with a long-time friend; where you can go camping with your family in the rain, but still have fun; life is the simple things like going for a hike, or helping your son work on his car.
Memories can be created every day. They don't all have to be grand adventures like a tropical vacation or trip to the Alps. Simple things can create memories that last a lifetime.
Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh