Have you ever known someone so important to you … so right … so much in your very soul that words cannot ever describe? That just knowing them is like Riding Lightning?
I suppose this is the equivalent of being Thunderstruck … the Italian colpo di fulmine.
I have only experienced this twice in my life. Once was the situation that brought me to the writing of this Happy Holly Project.
The other was the man we buried today.
I did not even know he had died until late yesterday afternoon. When I went out on a whim to look at the local obituaries online. Ever since I missed the passing of a not-so-close friend I have taken to looking there from time to time.
And as I rolled down the screen I stopped in mid breath as I saw his picture.
Immediately I thought maybe I had gone to another page by mistake. This could not be him. Full of life. Full of joy. Full of passion. Dead.
But in pulling up the page, I saw that he had died unexpectedly at home a few days ago.
And the tears started. And have not stopped. And I am not one who cries. At least I used to not cry.
This was a man who had given me, arguably, the best ten years of my life.
His uncanny resemblance to Robert Wagner also made him one of the best looking men I ever have known.
He was a partner in work, a partner in business, a partner in crime … a friend, an ally, a mentor …
He taught me to ski in Colorado, to golf again in West Virginia, to play in San Diego and to laugh … everywhere. He teamed with me to win awards, make money, and reach beyond anything that I alone would have been able to achieve.
He was there for me in good times and bad … as only the best friends can be.
As my mind flashed from place to place … memory to memory … I noticed that the only viewing started in a little over an hour … and I dropped everything to get ready to go.
There were hundreds of people at the Funeral Home last night. In a line that extended out the room, down the hall, into another viewing room all around, down and back up the other long hall, out the door and down the street.
And I saw nobody that I knew … and spoke not a word.
Until I was coming out of the one room and entering was a man and his wife … someone who had also worked with me all those years ago … who knew … who knew how close my friend and I had been.
He came up to me … put his arms around me … and said “Oh Holly … you’ve lost your best bud.”
And the tears flowed. For us both.
He then started to tell one and all around how important I had been in this mans life … and I turned and walked away up the line.
Not saying a word.
It took an hour. Until I got within sight distance of the casket. And my friend. And I realized that nobody was going up to the casket.
To the family, yes. To the other people, yes. To the casket, where my friend was, no.
What was wrong with these people? Didn’t they know there was a dead man there? That they would never see again? Ever?
I was greeted warmly by his family … which touched me more than you might know … the sister he said was a lot like me … expressed my condolences … and walked up to his casket.
The thing that you know will happen … some day … but not today … not today.
And I spoke to him … softly. And placed a kiss on his sleeve as I often do at viewings.
I don’t know who watched or what they thought … and I don’t care either.
This was my friend. And this was the last time I would ever see him.
There was to be a vigil … in true Irish fashion I suppose … but I could not stay … I had to leave.
This morning was the Mass.
And I went.
And said not a word.
Sitting in the back I saw people streaming in. Some I recognized. My friend from the night before and his wife. Some local celebrity types. His family.
And his casket.
With him inside.
And my head struck an odd tilt as I looked at it. And pictured him, peacefully, inside. And it was so sad. So wrong. So not the time.
As if there ever is the time.
Standing up and sitting down … over and over … listening … but never looking away from his casket. Mentally … telling him … letting him know … but of course he always has known.
Tears. Flowing silently. And I did not care.
My friend and his wife walked up the aisle as I rose to leave. He took one look at me and reached out to hug me. Then looked at me … and said “Yeah.”
To which I said the one word I said all day. “Yeah.”
And walked out into the rain … like tears.
Coming home I laid down to take a nap … and was wakened by an enormous clatter outside. A bird. Injured? A Red-Tailed Hawk? An Eagle? Both are in the area.
This was definitely the sound:
For those of you who know you well, you know that birds have been instrumental in my life … when loved ones have passed away. And I cannot see or hear a Cardinal without knowing my Grandpap loved me. Other birds … other people. But always when I need to see them. Or hear them.
And today this.
A Hawk screeching … wounding … seeing his obituary an hour or so before the viewing … and rain … like tears.