J’s best friend is ten days older than him. W is the main reason J goes on that yearly motorcycle trip, because not too long after college, W relocated to the Gulf Coast for work and he’s been there ever since, and J’s here with me. It’s a 12+ hour drive or an airplane flight to see each other in person, normally. We’ve done it a couple of times, as a couple and as a family, and J did it on his own a couple of times when he was a single man. W comes up here about once every year and a half. But it’s tough, not getting to see your best friend very often. I get it. My best friends live far away from me too, and then when I do actually get to see them (once a year for a couple of hours if I’m LUCKY), I really feel like I need to soak up every second I get. Anyway, J and W have a lot in common. They grew up together. They worked their high school jobs in the same place. They both like motorcycles. And like I said…their birthdays are pretty damn close together. They’re close…for two guys who aren’t related and live 12 hours driving apart. Every motorcycle trip…hell, every time J gets to see W at all…is pretty special for this reason. This trip was more loaded than normal, though.
On this trip, W told J that in late July, he had to have an emergency cardiac procedure performed. He’d gone to the doctor after being (his word) nagged by his wife (he’s been married for almost 6 years…not almost 15 like J and me…I kind of still consider them newlyweds) to go because he was just feeling run down all the time. He does those crazy mud run races and he looks young for 47. If he shaves his beard and wears a baseball cap (similar to J, honestly), he still could pass for about 29. But at this doctor’s appointment, they put him on a treadmill for a stress test and an EKG and found a 90% blockage in his left anterior descending artery (LAD). This is crassly but commonly known as the ‘widowmaker,’ because a 100% blockage there is nearly always fatal. They took him right from testing to have a stent put in.
He still went on the motorcycle trip. Because I mean…
Life is short.
J came home from his trip two days early.
He usually comes home a day early, because I miss him a lot and The Boy misses him a lot and he misses us too after a while, and other than W and a couple other guys he feels close to, the attitudes and behavior of the men in the group tend to wear on him at a certain point. But this time he came home earlier, partly because of what W told him. He didn’t tell us about W’s heart procedure while he was away. He spoke with The Boy and me right before The Boy’s early school night bedtime his last night in the cabin with the guys, and we told him we loved him and we missed him and reluctantly hung up the video call like we always do, and J told me when HE hung up, his friend R said, ‘You’re going home tomorrow, aren’t you, J?’ And J said, ‘Yep.’
He told me about W after we’d spent a little while being happily reunited (he surprised us!). And we really spent a lot of quality time together for that unexpected long weekend. As a couple. As a family. Not doing anything particularly spectacular, but just being US. Together. And being present in that. Because I mean…
Life is short.
The day after J told me about W’s health scare, we found out that cancer finally stole one of our long distance online friends. She’d been sick for years…basically the entire time we knew her. We weren’t exceptionally close, and she had prepared us all for her death in a very kind but real way. She expected it. We expected it. But her loss was still somehow jarring and certainly mourned.
She and I shared a lot of words and she inspired me to write a lot of words. She really touched a lot of people, and I’m certain she never really knew how many or how much. Probably none of us do know that…just how much we’ve impacted other people and how many other people will feel loss when we’re gone. And maybe we should pay more attention and be more mindful of that, because I mean…
Life is short.
I’ve been honestly feeling pretty off and kind of down for the past half a year or so. This has been a year of loss for me, it seems. I lost my dog. I lost all sense of faith that my relationship with my mom would ever be what I really need it to be and hoped it could be. I lost a few more friends…some for unknown reasons and at least one because cancer took her from me, and the people who were closer to her than I was. My high school best friend lost his mother. One of my best friends now is still mourning the loss of a parent. And my heart aches for them. I’ve lost some inspiration to write. I’ve lost some confidence and comfort in freely expressing myself. And all of this is weighing on me and kinda dragging me down.
That’s not like me, honestly. To get bogged down in loss for a long time. And I know it’s not a switch I can just flip and turn off the anxiety and sadness loss and grief bring, but I’m going to stop wallowing in the loss now. Enough of that shit. It dishonors W’s health scare. And it dishonors the memories of the people I’ve lost and still grieve.
Instead, I should love more. I should write more. I should take care of myself and not feel guilty about enforcing boundaries and making choices for me. I should be creating to combat the loss. I should be using what I have to heal pain instead of just standing here in it.
Because we really don’t get that much time.
We shouldn’t be wasting it thinking about loss and worrying about what other people are doing when it’s not helping us and it’s not hurting them. We should be building…creating things…lifting each other up…letting each other live…including ourselves.
We should be ourselves. Why do we ever try to not be? We should let everyone else be themselves too. Why do we ever try to stop them? We should let them love who they love. We should encourage them and, whenever we can, give them the tools to reach their potential. We should get up and help somebody. We should do what we love. We should water our gardens. We should find some joy wherever we can find it and share it with whomever wants it shared. We should stop spreading around our hate and judgment and animosity and destruction and start getting serious about kindness and acceptance and love and creation. Because I mean…
Life is short.
It really is.