A few weeks ago my friend went into the hospital to get help for ongoing back trouble and discovered that what he also had was pancreatic cancer. It was already very advanced and aggressive and had spread to his liver. He came home from the hospital a week before Christmas. Two days before Christmas he died.
The day of the funeral I'd been on a steady intake of Starbucks so that my brain would be too amped-up and twitchy to think about what was actually going on. I'd been driving his car, in part, because mine was in the shop and his family was incredibly kind to insist that I use it. Getting in his car to run my last errand before I headed to the church, I went to find a cup-holder for my upteenth cup of coffee. There wasn't one, so I reached back to set it in the open compartment between the front seats. The compartment contained something of his that I didn't want to accidentally get coffee on, so I pulled it out and put it on the passenger seat. It was his picture ID badge for work. There was his little face smirking up at me and looking nothing like the person I'd just seen wither away over the past few days. All of my efforts of caffinated distraction were suddenly futile and things went steadily downhill from there.
Downhill because, as it turns out, I am often slow to process things. In bad situations I feel shock and sadness but in the beginning am oddly able to keep it under control and go about doing what I need to get done. While most normal people are letting their feelings out in smaller, more manageable increments I, apparently unconsciously, save all of mine for later. Like for when I'm dressed up and wearing make-up and there are lots of people around to wonder if I need to be medicated.
In the preparations for the funeral it was mentioned that I might be one of the people interested in giving a remembrance during the service. My immediate response to that notion was "no." I felt guilty saying it but knew that standing in front of a crowd of people like that was not something I was capable of and that someone else would do a much better job. It turned out that I was right on both counts. Had I been brave enough to do it, this is what I would have said.
.........................Eddie and I met as co-workers ten-ish years ago at one of the historic mansions in Nashville. We staffed weddings and receptions and banquets and things. He was hilarious and the events we worked together always seemed to go by much faster than I wanted them to.
My favorite memory of him will always be of us working a wedding where the two families and most of the guests were professional ballroom dancers. During the reception they took it upon themselves to expand the dance floor, trapping Eddie and myself in the gift shop. It was a humid summer night and we were tired and punchy and surrounded by all things grand and old and Southern. The situation screamed for a veranda and something with bourbon, but we settled for putting on our best drawls and quoting the classics. Classics being Steel Magnolias, North and South (that awful miniseries from 80's) and entire episodes of Designing Women. Eddie could recite one of Julia's tirades or imitate Suzanne Sugarbaker like no one else. One of our mutual favorite episodes being when Suzanne wanted to be Diana Ross in the fundraiser / talent show. I laughed myself sick that night and have yet to see a commercial for Dancing with the Stars and been able to keep a straight face.
Later, Eddie and I were neighbors. When I bought my house I was thrilled to discover that he lived one street over. Always considerate, he came over with wine to celebrate my first night as a homeowner. Over the years we would exchange the occasional covered dish, neighborhood gossip and tales of home improvement projects gone awry.
More recently we were drinking buddies. We found ourselves part of a group of people that meets at a neighborhood bar on Fridays. Most of the group is made up of couples so we would occasionally exchange emails earlier in the day to see if we would be the other's date that night.
One Friday we discovered our mutual love of the TV show Lost and would often spend a good portion of those evenings sharing theories and rehashing the week's episode. I still don't know quite what my faith or theory is on the afterlife, but I do know that whatever it is, Eddie's first order of business was to find out what the hell is going on on that damn island and is quite pleased he found out before I did.
We were never friends who spent every spare minute together or shared every secret, but we were good friends who knew we could depend on and call the other if we ever needed anything. I was able to spend one night at his house after he came back from the hospital. We stayed up late playing gin and listening to music. Well... to be more accurate... we sat with cards in our hands as he was too doped-up on morphine to really play and the music was really mostly just him trying to talk me into liking Celine Dion.
In fact, Eddie would probably tell me the only thing that could make this post about him any better would be a nice video montage of Celine Dion. Well, we all know that's not going to happen, but hopefully this will do instead.