someone i went to elementary & middle school with died of cancer on sunday morning. he was one week shy of his 21st birthday. i found out sunday evening, through, of all things, facebook. i hadn’t talked to him in something like eight years, but it still hit me pretty hard.
i had the hugest crush on this kid for a long time, lol.* he had the most incredible smile anyone i know has ever seen. was always in the habit of lighting up rooms and that nonsense. he helped teach me to play soccer when i was in fifth grade, and that’s how i’ll always remember him, i hope. i didn’t like the things i heard about him in high school, although it seems unfair to say that now.
i cried more out of shock than anything else, i think. i don’t generally cry when people die....although maybe that is becoming untrue. i did not know how to react to this, and it’s likely that i still don’t. i haven’t had to deal with death since i had a rather substantial spiritual reorganization a few months ago . . . i need to figure out how this fits into, well, everything. **
i feel a strange mix of guilt, ambivalence, and confusion . . . guilt because i’m 250 miles away, the funeral is tomorrow, and there’s no way i can make it back. however, i don’t really think that going to the funeral would help me at all. i’d just be seeing a bunch of people i haven’t seen in a really long time, none of whom expect me to be there. there are no right words i can say to any of them, and no right words any of them could say to me. i tend to think funerals are silly, and i think that would make me unwelcome, even if i were the only one who knew it. ultimately, each person grieves privately. guilt also because i haven’t kept in touch with any of these people well enough . . . tragedy makes you realize that in a big way. confusion because i have no idea how to react to all of this. at least, i have no idea how i’m supposed to react to all of this. part of me feels like i don’t have the right to grieve for him: i haven’t seen or talked to him since about 7th grade, i’ve thought unkind things about him in the meantime, and there are many more people who have been much closer to him than i have.
i wrote a song, and it helped.
the morning after i found out, i ran into the lady who does housekeeping for my building as i was leaving. she had a big smile on her face and welcomed me back (i just moved back on campus after the summer), and she showed me a picture on her cell phone and said, “this is our new addition! as of last night.” her new grandson had just been born. i couldn’t help being happy for her, but i started crying as i walked away. that kind of stark juxtaposition can really help to put things in perspective. people are born and die every day.
i won’t say you shoulda met him, because how could i know at this point. but god, did that kid have an amazing smile.
goodbye, nic/k . . . you will be missed, and you have made more of a difference than you probably know.
*i choose my words carefully. “lol” means exactly what i want it to mean.
**at this point, “brighter than sunshine” came up on pandora, and it messed with my head a little bit more. then i had to leave for a couple hours to do things.