Death Is A Distant Rumour To The Young*
While we were in New York last week I woke to an email that just didn't make sense to my I'm-on-vacation-and-still-slightly-jet-lagged mind. I frantically rubbed at my eyes trying to make sense of it in those first few moments of consciousness but I just couldn't get my brain to co-operate. The words finally came together to form the tragic news of the death of a friend who had lost his life in a car accident the day before. His death was (and still is) unfathomable to me. My friend, this dear man who carried the biggest of hearts and an even bigger personality was gone - too young and just heart-breakingly too soon.
This wonderful father, husband and friend was one of those larger than life guys who made everyone around him want to be bigger than they were, brighter than they hoped and to laugh harder than they ever had before. He filled every room with his presence; his big smile and bald head gleaming under the lights and he had a kick arse hug that knocked the breath out of you. You could hear his swearing from the other side of the office, you could feel his step before he arrived at your desk and you could rely on him to have your back whenever you needed it. I don’t think I've ever met anyone so universally loved, but these words just don't seem to capture the essence of him in the way I remember and I find myself unable to properly articulate who he was and what he meant to the people who loved him. Or maybe I can, but just not right now, not yet anyway.
After hearing the news of his death I felt shell shocked and my mind whirled at the craziness and confusion of it all. I'm not sure if distance magnified the grief or it was just as it would've been if I was in Sydney, but I felt it scorchingly and I really wasn't sure what to do with myself and the pain of it all. With a raw heart I did the easiest thing I could think of - I began to walk. I walked along the Hudson River under menacing grey skies as the cold wind sliced at my body. I walked until I couldn't feel my face and my hips ached as they do when I have walked far before realising that I’d travelled from the West Village to Battery Park without a sense of where I was and how I got there.
At some stage I doubled over on a bench as the tears and snot slid down my cheeks and I crumpled tissues hard against my face. My chest heaved with sobs as I heard my friend’s voice in my head, so loud and full of life. I found myself swinging manically between being so incredibly angry at him for being so stupid, heartbroken for his family and the life they were now facing without him and saddened that a life was cut short. As I sat beside the river I had crazy thoughts of needing to call him up to tell him that someone had told me he had died and wasn't that just fucking hilarious? I could hear his laughter - I know he would've found the concept of dying just ludicrous, because like us all, I'm sure he thought he was invincible, because our mortality doesn't feel like it can reach us when we are young and healthy does it? Death is a distant rumour to the young*.
But as we all know, it’s not, and it wasn't and the loss of his life and the memories that my friend would've made with his family and his friends has gone, in the flash of a poor decision, and the whole thing sucks beyond the words here on this page, and the sadness is more than I can seem to properly comprehend.
*Quote courtesy of Andy Rooney