My friend died two weeks ago.
I’d never had a friend die before. The day I found out (The day he died), I called Diana. I sobbed into the phone. She said some things to calm me down, and she also said what I needed to hear most.
“This isn’t about you.”
I went home and I did what I needed to do to get my feelings in check. I wrote this, for one. Since then I’ve grappled with whether or not to make this rumination public. BJ’s death wasn’t about me, and it isn’t about me still. It is about him, and those who survive him. I worry about trivializing a family’s suffering by posting my own unsolicited feelings on my mostly-defunct music blog. (What is the protocol here?) But BJ always seemed to care about LL; he always asked about it, was ever eager to share a new song he’d fallen in love with, and even let me feature his photography (pictured here) a few times. He was one of its first and best supporters. So I think this is ok. At least, I hope it is.
(But how can you be sure? The dead don’t talk.)
BJ fought cancer for over a year. During that time he asked that I make him a playlist, just of things I’d been listening to recently. I put it on my to-do list and put it off perpetually. He asked if we could catch up on the phone, said he appreciated my friendship and wanted to stay more regularly in touch. I got busy and never called. He finished a round of treatment, and I asked for his address so I could send him a card. I never found the perfect card and so I never sent one.
My mom was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer this winter. Within an hour of hearing the news, BJ sent me a veritable essay on chemo tricks and tips. (You didn’t even have to ask.) Months went by. I didn’t make a playlist, I didn’t call, and I didn’t mail a card.
When he died I felt a lot of things, but mostly crushing guilt.
(This isn’t about you.)
It may sound trivial. Indeed, in the grand scheme, a playlist, a phone call, and a post card don’t add up to much. But it’s the little things that matter. It’s the little things that get us through the day, that help us live with ourselves. It’s the little things that set friends apart from acquaintances, loves apart from lovers, and memories apart from the haze of the quotidian. Can I call myself a friend if I can’t or won’t make time for the little things?
(You can’t be sure. The dead don’t talk.)
I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in a higher power, or heaven, or hell, or spirits, or the afterlife. I believe that we have the time that is given to us, and that is all. So I sit with the fact that my friend is gone—to dust—and in the time that mattered, I didn’t give him time.
Even if I am completely wrong (Often, you hope you are), and there is in fact something past death, I sincerely doubt the departed are checking the internet. (Post-mortem Facebook posts are the saddest exercise in futility.) So posting this is little recourse. But I think I owe it to him to at least pretend. Or hold out hope that maybe, just maybe, there’s something else out there…
And they have wifi.
My friend’s death isn’t about me, but through it I’ve learned some thing about me: the relationships I want to cultivate, the little things on which I want to concentrate. This is late, it’s not enough, and I am truly, deeply sorry for not giving you time when we had it.
But hey BJ, here's your playlist.
While we're here:
I know this is the opening track on the playlist, but I want to make double-sure you listen to it. I've cried at least 4 times while doing so. Also of note, the lyrics include the word "asunder," which is something you really don't see every day. (Check out Allies For Everyone on Facebook.)