Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door-Bob Dylan
Nine years ago we buried one of my best friends. His yarzheit was August 25th. For those of you who are concerned, I don’t remember what the Hebrew date is. I just know that it is close to Elul and that this has always affected me.
His death was a life changing experience. He wasn’t the first friend that we lost. There were others that came before and after him. I don’t mean to demean or marginalize the loss of the others. Should their loved ones ever read this I don’t want them to feel badly. But they were different.
Car accidents, a bike accident, a couple of suicides took the others. Cancer took my pal away. It didn’t happen over night. It was a process that took a while. In some ways it seemed like it took forever and in others it felt like forever. Each week there was a gradual deterioration of his abilities. The cancer didn’t discriminate between cognitive or motor skills. It took huge bites out of all until there was nothing left to take. The giving tree was no more.
The first few years after his death were hard, far harder than now. It is not that I do not miss him, but I have grown accustomed to his absence. For a long time that bothered me. I felt like I was betraying his memory. If I didn’t feel that searing sense of loss I’d wonder what was wrong with me. It took a while to realize that I was healing and to accept that it was ok not to miss him every day.
After a while it was normal not to think about him, to not wonder what sort of advice he might have offered, to not feel badly that he would never know the pleasure of being a father etc. Still I made a point of not missing his yarzheit.
Each year I would take a few minutes to think about him and appreciate all that I had learned and gained from our friendship.
This year was different. This year was different because I forgot about his yarzheit. It didn’t even occur to me until today that I had. So I suppose that this is more proof that time heals all wounds. Yet I’d like to clarify that.
I may not feel that searing pain. The sense of loss may not be there, but the scars remain. There are moments when it is tough. There are times when I do very much wish that he was still here. When I get together with the crew there are moments that I look out at 35 or so kids and wish that his were playing with the rest.
There are those moments when the memories pop up. A dinner in Beverly Hills, a hike in the Sierras, flying over Catalina or walking down the street in Jerusalem. They’re bittersweet memories. They’re part of deep spiritual questions and tied into growth.
His loss changed me. It aged me. It made me question and wonder about things that I might not ever have. I don’t want to belabor the point or make this post any longer than it is. All I know is that I wish the old bastard was here to argue with me because I miss my friend.
I miss my friend. How many times have I said that recently and how many more times will I have to say it. Every now and then I am amazed to hear someone say that they have never been to a funeral. I have been to more than twenty.