It’s been almost seven years since a friend of mine called from India to tell me my friend Ab had died in his sleep on February 20, 2004. Seven years – blink. Time accelerates as you get older! It’s strange how I knew the content of this message even before it was delivered, and braced myself to hear it. Is it tone of voice, the words “I have something I need to let you know”, or perhaps an intuitive connection to the deceased that tips the utterer’s hand? Or a combination of all of those things? Ultimately I do not know. What I remember about that moment is the brief disbelief, quickly followed by the knowledge that his death was final. Mostly I remember thinking “anyone but him”. Not him. Not the one person who knew me when. Who shared my collective memories and history for decades. My friend who cared and continued to show he cared through time, geography and the good and bad fortunes of life and love. Now I have no one to share those certain memories with that are so meaningful to me, as only he was there. Mundane I suppose and common place, but precious memories nontheless of hiking and snowshoeing, and music and late into the night talks, and coming of age.
I realized over the years – although I had never really thought consciously about it before – that Ab was probably my best friend. By best friend I understood that even though we were not always in constant contact over the years, there was a timeless quality of ease and comfort between us when we met up, like we both knew it was a given that we would always care for each other. A friend of my youth, I came to trust him to consistently be in my corner. The world is smaller – too small – without him. His body is gone, but like mourners before me I have come to know that love endures very much in the present tense. That – like the constant quality of our friendship – I will continue to love him until the end of time. This is the gift of grief. And I thank him for that.
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