Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Quiet Hero

I’ve always found it peculiar (and somewhat annoying) that I can forget where I sat my keys down 15 seconds ago, yet dates and events permanently hard code in my brain. Sometimes I wish these things were as easily scrambled into the noise of life and living too.

Thanks to this trait, the arrival of April is always tinged with melancholy for me. This Sunday, April 2nd, marks 18 years that my dearest friend from my teens has been gone. I remember Mom calling me at college and giving me the news. He had died in a fire trying to save someone thought to be still inside the building. He wasn’t a fireman or EMT – it was just the kind of person he was. Selfless and inherently heroic without meaning to be. The cruel irony was, no one was inside - he succumbed to smoke inhalation, searching for someone who’d already made it out.

I received the call just before art history class. Finals were approaching and I couldn’t really afford to skip class, as it was difficult to recuperate slide lecture notes. I can’t remember a single thing from that lecture. I do remember being thankful that the lights were off, so I could allow the tears to roll down my face with little notice as I struggled with digesting the shock and making sense of this blindsiding loss of my friend.

We met at youth camp several years before and in the seasons following built a bloodlike bond. Through celebrations, family issues, big breakups and the standard myriad of second decade milestones, we always had each other’s back - laughed and cried together, and confided in each other in total trust. We were family. I think back on those times and the roots of our friendship and smile wryly at the complicated simplicity of our lives. The drama of teen angst is by no means trivial at the time, but hindsight reveals how young and tender we were – still yet untouched by so many of the tragedies of life – and of losing things so valuable.

He was uncommonly kind and compassionate, and I’d never heard him speak ill toward anyone. I wonder if the storms of life would have further honed and refined this natural grace in him, or if he’d sour and scar as I did. So many times I’ve wondered what sort of man he’d have become. He had a gift for music and a heart for God – I could see him in a music ministry of some sort, possibly in the very church his younger brother now pastors, not far from my home. I know he and my husband would be good friends – they’d have enjoyed each other’s company greatly. He’d most certainly be married and have a yard full of kids, no doubt coaching their little league teams and heading up their scout troops and Sunday school classes. Though oblivious to any difference, the lives he would have touched are paler in his absence. Of that I’m sure.

The Lord has His reasons for His timing. I always remember that, even though I don’t understand it sometimes. Each year these memories revisit, and I wonder. It just seems my friend should have lived a long, enriching life – much longer than 20 years.

14 comments:

joy said...

more the reason that we should cherish life....our loved ones....the beauty and simplicity of life around us. clew, for some reason this post touched something within me and brought tears to my eyes. i know that this must be a difficult memory for you, but it's like you said: God does have His reasons for allowing things like a senseless death to happen. and we many never find out until eternity. thank you for sharing with us.

martie said...

"The Lord has His reasons for His timing." How true, but it doesn't lessen the loss we feel upon losing someone to death....and more often than not, we think their life should have been longer. This time of year will always hold bittersweet memories for you.....but you wouldn't want to forget anyway.

Hugs to you and thanks for sharing.

Lori said...

I lost a friend at about the same age in a car accident. I remember my mother telling me over Christmas break. She hadn't realized how close we had been and it was all unreal to me for the longest time.

He lives on in my memory as that youthful, energetic and wonderful boy who would have become such an exceptional man.

Nelly said...

When I read something like this, it makes me want to call all of my family and friends and tell them all that I love them. Life is short and our life plan is already sketched out, but we have no idea what the life plan looks like. Any of us could go in the next minute. It is a scary, scary thing to think about and it is too bad that a story like this has to trigger the emotions instead of us feeling like this towards our family and friends every day. Thank you Clew...I love you!

Mindless Dribbler said...

Sounds as if the world lost a great man if at 20 years old he was so compassionate.

Sorry Clew.

FrogLegs said...

Awww.. {{{{hugs}}}} Sometimes we just never know... I try to remember this when I deal with my family, to take every minute I can get with them, just in case...

Rebecca said...

I lost a teen friend 20 years ago this month as well - April 18th. Motorcycle accident. He lived across the street from me, and was my first "boyfriend" at 14. Such a tragic, tragic loss. He was 16 at the time....

Bougie Black Boy said...

Makes us a bit more humble for the lives with which we live.

Are you getting bougie-esque with your adverbs? "uncommonly kind" --love that phrase. May I steal it?

McSwain said...

I've been sort of mulling this one around in my brain since I first read it... there's the happiness of that uncommon bond, but the sadness for the loss of it. Your story touches something in any of us who have been on this earth for long, I think.

Some Random Girl said...

ON April 9th, it will be 2 years since my sister in law passed away. It's hard and I wonder if it ever goes away but now that I've read your post, I know it doesn't. Losing someone you love always leaves a void. We wonder. It's so sad. I only hope to see her again someday in heaven. I hope you see him too.

Michael said...

I'm sorry that you lost a friend and loved one, but he's still with you.

Unacknowledged Genius said...

You were lucky to have had a friend like him but he was equally as lucky having a friend in you. What a lovely tribute to your friend.

bigwhitehat said...

Quit being melencholy. Your friend doesn't want you to be miserable.

The time for mourning is past. Now it is time to remember the reasons you are fond of him. Laughter honors the dead more than tears do. You have just paid a wonderful tribute to him. I'm sure he likes it.

Also, you must understand that he aint missing a thing. He is in a better place than you are. He is close enough to God to sit in His lap and play Him a song. Nothing you know could possibly compare.

Trust that he is exceedingly happy and live right so you can meet him again.

The Editor said...

((((Clew)))) Thanks for sharing that.