My darling Bob,
Last week whilst I was busy living, you were busy dying. I was boating on the Gulf, sipping Prosecco and cutting into a birthday cake and you were leaving.
Separated by thousands of miles, you left your old age on the day I entered mine. You slipped out, while I slipped in, no, burst in, “To rage against the dying light.”
We emailed until you couldn’t anymore and then the disheartening phone calls, your voice feeble and confused with pain. I choked. We both knew what was coming. How do you say goodbye forever? I couldn’t. You couldn’t. Words left unsaid.
All the emails and phone calls. You were the constant of my life, my love, my joy. You were my Christmas, my Easter, my Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving. We marked the seasons together.
Who will I count on now to show me the way? Whose voice will be calm, steady, always there, saying: Yes. Go. Do. Enjoy.
I guess that voice will have to be mine now. Being that voice is a responsibility. I don’t want to be that voice. Do I have to be that voice? Of course, yes.
The adjustment. When someone leaves, we stare at the space until we figure out how to fill it. When someone is born, we need to move over, make room.
You’re free now. Why is life something we need to be freed from? You showed me a hard lesson: that up until the end one is tortured by unanswerable questions. That questions remain unanswerable your entire life. You never “arrive.”
I know you have the answers now. I know you are at peace and filled with love and wonder. “The death of an old man is not a tragedy,” goes the saying. But it is my tragedy.
A life well lived. Carry on my brave friend. In my heart forever.
P.S. My lovelies, I’m sharing this with you not for sympathy, but so we can talk about our experiences of friends and loved ones leaving. It never gets any easier with time.
Bob Julien (1927-2016) was the last surviving friend of my parents’ generation. We became friends after my parents passed away, writing and phoning each other several times weekly. Bob was fluent in Internet matters and lived a big, intellectually fascinating life, until he died on July 30, 2016 at age 89. A mere month before he passed away he was teaching his popular music appreciation at Noble Horizons in Salisbury, CT, bringing joy and inspiration to so many lives.
Hello my lovelies. Have you ever had a friendship with an older person? It is such a gift. I love having friends of all different ages. Do you have any rituals you follow when you experience the passing of a dear friend? Write your words below. They don’t even have to be coherent. Write a poem if you like. Do share Camp Liza with friends via the clever buttons and enter your email in the box above so you don’t miss a thing.