Opening my email...it seems as though every time I look in my inbox I receive bad news.
2 weeks ago, it was a voice message that my best friend's father had died suddenly and unexpectedly. This week it was an email titled "Bad News" and carried the heartwrenching announcement that one of my best guy friends had been in a serious motorcycle accident over the weekend, and was taken off life support Sunday. The funeral was today.
I had the horrible job of notifying the other friends who no longer worked at the company where we all met.
Let me first explain something - this man was like a brother to me. He leaves behind a wife, and 2 sons, aged 9 and 6. Their 6 year old has been dealing with health issues since he was about 3, relating to his kidneys. My friend, whom I shall call Remy (those familiar with X-Men will get it), had this amazing capacity to find the fun in everything we did...no matter what, he could always lighten the mood, make us laugh out loud...and then he'd turn around, and be able to have a serious discussion with a couple we knew who were having a tough time making it through some indiscretion. He saved their marriage. He was BB's friend. He was larger than life, and through him I found the child within myself again, and learned that it's ok to play when you're a grown-up. His boys would leap into his arms, sometimes to hug him, more often to pummel the tar out of him. He was a real southern boy, from Texas (no comments to the contrary please), and knew how to treat a lady like a queen. He could dance like an angel, drink men twice his size under the table, ride a quad like a bat out of hell, and took all the chances he could. He lived life to the fullest, and I learned a lot from him.
To be told via email from a friend of a friend was quite possibly the most hurtful thing I've ever experienced. That is, until this morning.
The funeral was heavily attended, attesting to the fact that he could make friends with a rock if he wanted to, and it was a testament to his life - people from all different walks of life, all different faiths, gathered together to mourn his passing. It was also a celebration that he's gone Home, and is waiting for his beautiful wife and boys to join him at the end of their lives.
Somehow, some part of me was refusing to accept the truth that he is gone, and right up until the end of the service, I expected to see him come sauntering in the back door, dressed in his leathers, back from a motorcycle ride, laughing at all of us gathered there crying our eyes out and saying "Ha! Gotcha!". When the Honor Guard from the local V.F.W. came marching up the aisle, and folded the flag, presenting it to his wife, and then offering the 21-gun salute, it came crashing home to me, more real than anything I've ever been through before that he was really gone.
He lost control of his motorcycle, and went off the road. I don't know where, but I bet it was up the winding canyon roads not far from his neighborhood. I bet he was screaming along through the canyon, wind ripping past him, hugging the corners until the last one.
What I do know is that I will never forget him, or the impact he had on the lives of BB and myself. I will never forget how his face lit up when he talked about his wife and sons. I'll never forget the devilish light in his eyes when he was concocting some plan for fun. I'll never forget watching a grown man celebrate Halloween with his kids, and be more childish than they. I'll never forget that his oldest boy wants to be just like him, down to the color of the motorcycle he gets when he grows up.
I'll never forget how he saved the marriage of a friend. I'll never forget how tenderly he held his wife while they danced to their song when we would all go out.
SO, I'll be watching the Dallas Stars and cheering them on in his honor, and I'll throw back a Mickey's Malt beverage, and maybe even a Budweiser for him. The next time I see an eagle, I'll think of him and smile a little. The next time our flag is presented, and we sing our national anthem, I'll think of his service, and the 82nd Airborne, and know that I can proudly say I knew this man.