Regardless of the differences between us, whether they be ethnic, religious, or innate, the common denominators that link us all together become just as evident as the ones that visually push us apart. I didn't start to wake up and loosely understand the vast world around me until I was close to twenty-five, but the first time I can remember being stirred from my slumber was during the summer I turned seventeen, the same summer that provided the news that my best friend had been murdered. It started off slowly, and the pain lingered. It was a pain that I had never felt before, a pain that I was unfamiliar with, and one that was irrational. Since then there have been many more than several taken off the shelf like can goods, never to be put back in the place from whence they once held down like paperweights.
I have a group of friends that I've had since I was a child, a group of friends that no matter the distance, the time apart, or the drift between us continue to hold the same heart, beliefs, and social understanding that I hold. The other night I found myself having the same conversation that I've had time and time again during the course of my life, but with a woman that I thought I'd never have that talk with. She's the wife of one of my first and best childhood friends, and when we were talking about a close mutual friend that passed over the past summer she asked me, "Who do you think will be next?" I told her that I wasn't sure, but that I too have asked myself that question many times since my seventeenth summer.
Death has been the bond that has held us all together. It's the bond that holds every living creature together across the land, oceans, and time. It's the one thing that you can truly trust, count on to be there, and that will come to you when the time is yours. There's a numbness that comes over you when you've seen as much life taken as this group of friends has. A numbness much like the one that bourbon burns into our brains. A numbness that I wish I never knew, but one that I'm glad to be partial to. You see, because once you've watched death approach you from so many different places, touch you with its many different hands, and wake you up on the many mornings that it inevitably will if you live long enough then you start to accept its grasp.
When we're young, full of life, and living for the moment, the one that's right there at your fingertips, then death seems as if it could never catch up to you. It seems as if it's not real, and that the stories that you've heard about it are just stories. Their validity hasn't been proven yet. These are innocent times, days when you can stare at the sun until your eyes burn, and then turn away as you try to shake the colored spots from your vision. Times when you can be a little more selfish, explore your own mind, thoughts, and communicate less with the ones that you call your friends and loved ones. These are also the times when you can be reckless, drink until you black out, say and do the things that you normally wouldn't do under a sober state of mind, and then wake up, only to call the friends that you've pissed off the night before as you try to piece the prior evening together. But once a close life has been taken from you then these luxuries seem to be the things that make you think to yourself, "Why is it that I can still do these things, while the ones that were just here with me the day before cannot?" Loosing a close friend is a sobering effect that can often make you want to live a better, more fulfilling life.
It's been nearly thirteen years since the first friend of mine was taken, and about six months since my last friend passed. There have been so many in between that it's hard to recall each and every one. Some have been by the hands of others, some by the hands of themselves, and some by the course of nature, but the bond that holds us all together in life, is the one that binds us all in death. Just as there's a fear and curiosity about life, there too is one concerning your own demise. The sooner you can become comfortable within your own skin, appreciate the people and the subtle things that surround you daily, the closer you'll be to happiness, and the closer you'll be to taking that next step that we all must take.
Rest in heavenly peace Brian Scott, Steve Blair, Will Chabot, and all the others that fell along the way.
Photo courtesy of: Marty Pearl
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