You all cross my mind, perhaps more often than the dead really should. You are no longer living, breathing, thinking entities, though maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe the stories of so many religions across the millennia are true: maybe you all still exist somewhere, perhaps not alive (in the sense that we know it), but still cognizant of some form of reality?
All I know for sure is that I miss you and, for many of you, I feel like you were gone too soon. Along with missing you is, in some cases, a twinge of guilt. For those who took their own lives I wonder, "Could I have done more?" For those who passed away naturally I ask, "Did I convey to you how much you were appreciated?" Questions with unknowable answers. That could be why they resurface far too often.
Tracy, you wanted to help Ashley & I with the home we'd moved into in March 2004. I'd described it to you over the phone, and you, with your keen sense of decorating, offered to help advise us with anything we asked. "Send me some pictures," you'd said. I responded that I would, but never did. In December of that year I was attending your funeral. I sometimes daydream about what your last moments must have been like. I imagine you rushing from your house to your garage, getting into the car, starting the engine, and…..
Jeff, you introduced me to the Pet Shop Boys, my favorite musical group in all the world. That's likely to never change. After twenty years, why would it? Your darkened living room, listening to your collection of Cocteau Twins, Pet Shop Boys and Erasure is how I remember you best, but also sitting in your car while you wailed and cried onto my chest over a man who had dumped you, or how you strongly cautioned me against a guy who turned out to be exactly what you'd suspected. Then, one day, a heart attack took you, at roughly the age I am now.
Bret, we were friends, we lived together, we went shopping together and I went to your graduation in Lafayette Indiana and then on to Chicago for a weekend of partying after that. You moved in with me when you began working at Provena here in C-U, and then I kicked you out a couple months later when you weren't paying for rent or groceries. I don't know how, or why, but a few years later you were living in Georgia and took your own life. I'm sorry our last time together was in anger.
Dad, the last time I saw you was at Grandma Callie's house in Champaign, some two months before you passed away from pancreatic cancer. You were thin, but mobile. Then, the cancer (having spread to your liver and lungs) made things more difficult for you. Then on oxygen, you said it was okay to come visit you in Springfield, though you wouldn't be able to talk much. This all terrified me and, like the stupid 21-year-old that I was, I got drunk the night before I was to go see you and never went. Soon, you were dead.
Gummy, you were the grandparent I was closest to. We would have long talks on the phone and in-person about religion, ancient human civilizations, aliens, Star Trek and politics. Sometimes we agreed, other times I felt so wounded after a conversation that I vowed never to speak to you again (though I always did). You said to mom and I, not long before you became sick, that we should have a cook-out. We nodded and said, "Yes, that sounds nice," but never did anything about it. I wish we'd had that cook-out.
You were all a part of my life, and I loved you. Indeed, I still do. The movie Interstellar posited that love was a notion, perhaps even a dimension, that could cross time in its strength. Many scoffed at such claptrap. I embraced it because I know it to be true, if only as long as those who love us still exist. You were all a collection of bone, tissue, water and firing neurons. That doesn't sound like much, but put it all together and….
This fellow collection of the same aforementioned matter found you in this world. For a couple of you it was because we shared some of the same genes. For the rest of you, it was because our paths crossed and, for at least a time, we didn't want to live our lives without the presence of the other. And, I hope, our lives were better because of it. I know mine is. That seems to be what happens: we meet, we attach, we exist symbiotically, and then our time together comes to an end.
In the case of all of you, I feel like you should still be here. Or at least been here for awhile longer. I know death happens. It is, as the cliched saying goes, a part of life. And we do not have a guarantee of time on this earth. But, damn it, many of you should still be here. Dad, you should have been at that family reunion three years back. Bret, we should have re-connected, apologized, and be friends on Facebook or something.
I hope you all know how much you meant to me, in your own, unique ways.
I should see my friends and family more.