my dear young friend
Thirty years ago next month, I stood where you are today having lost a friend who had just begun to live her life. Don’t try to make sense of it. It will never make sense.
But, thirty years after those painful days that followed the death and burial of my own friend, there are things that may be able to help you, coming from someone who has also faced the confusion, loneliness, and emptiness of experience at a early age. The most important lesson you will learn is one that you may not fully appreciate for many, many years. That lesson is that you will never forget and the memory of your friend will somehow reverberate in your life for all your days.
David Eagleman wrote: “There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is sent to the grave. The third is that time, sometime in the future, when your name is called by the last time.” Those words are very true.
During these first days of confusion, there may be people trying to comfort you and inevitably someone will tell you that your friend is in your memory. It will hurt too much to fully acknowledge how deep and true those words are and what they will mean in the future.
You see, hours will pass, which will turn into days and little by little they will give way to months and years. Holidays and special occasions will come and go. The seasons will change. Someday, maybe you’ll get married and have kids of your own. You will get on with your life. That is your responsibility and what you have to do. But, what you experience this week will never go away and will change you forever.
Your friend’s voice will eventually fade into your memory. He has to do it so you can heal. The smell of him. His laugh and smile. His face. Everything that is so vivid now and that you will do your best not to forget, will eventually fade around the edges. That’s what needs to happen for you to get on with your life. But know this, she will never completely go away and this is how it should be.
One day, many years from now, you will hear a song that he loved, or a band, and you will think of it. You will have a very special day like a wedding or the birth of your child and you will remember your friend. You’ll be sitting on the beach one night and watching a spectacular sunset, you’ll be thankful you’re alive to see it, and your mind will wander to your friend. You will find yourself consoling a young man such as yourself, as I have now on several occasions since that terrible time almost thirty years ago, and you will think of your friend.
And, what you will realize with age and time, is that your friend has never left you, and that will become an incredible comfort. Because as you get older and more people around you inevitably begin to pass, you’ll find there’s a lot of truth to David Eagleman’s words. There are three deaths. And, as long as you keep the memory of your friend in your mind and heart, a part of your friend will live on as long as you live.
Thirty years later, you will find comfort in knowing that the memory is kind. Wherever you go, whatever you do, no one will be able to take your friend’s memory. And, in those moments when his image comes back to the fore for whatever reason, you will understand and feel peace in the truth that memory brings comfort and memory serves to keep someone alive, like an enigmatic mist that it appears suddenly and hangs in the atmosphere after a summer rain.
You don’t know when you will think of your friend one day. Days, months and years can pass. But suddenly she is there and present in your mind. And you will hear a brief echo of her voice. You will be able to see in your mind a fleeting image of her face. And you will know that she is still alive in some ethereal form because you still have her in your memory.