An old friend’s father recently passed away. The old friend, I’ll call him Richard, and I, we don’t speak often; in fact we haven’t spoken or seen each other in a few years, at least. Then, I was told that his father passed and left a message to which he quickly replied and we spoke on the phone.
It’s amazing how many memories can come rushing back when you reconnect with someone after years of distance. In an instant, I recalled playing long chess games with Richard. We would set up a game and let it sit until we were done. A day could pass, days even.
What’s more, when I recall Richard’s father, all I see is a smiling, grey haired, blue-eyed man. His smile was soft, and inviting. He was truly someone you could describe as ‘warm’ and be perfectly accurate. And complete. Richard’s father, who I will refer to as Marvin, was a class act. He exuded confidence and joy. He was a man content with his life: his four diverse and equally talented children, all of found success. Richard has achieved enormous respect in the legal community, and his oldest sister is a known name in the film industry.
What's more, Marvin enjoyed a decades-long marriage to his wife, Richard's mother. their marriage outlasted many others of their peers, including my own parents' 18-year run. Yes, Marvin had a lot to feel good about.
And then illness comes.
And there's nothing you can do about it except treat, be present and loving. As Marvin would have for anyone.
Richard mentioned that the shiva was a nice distraction. In the Jewish culture, the mourning family sits shiva, they remain home for seven days (shiva relates to the number 7) while friends and family bring meals, they bring prayer and mourning services, and they bring themselves. So while it’s a nice distraction, it’s also a burden, having to be social when you just want to be alone.
And then, they leave. And you are alone.
And there's nothing left to do but be aware of the fact that someone you loved dearly for your entire life is gone.
Did you know that 'gone' has a sound? And a weight?
How heavy absence can be.
A barbell weight at the end of a necklace, pulling you down when you're just trying to walk on your own again.
Richard and I spoke about that impending quiet. Eventually, the mourners and visitors go away. The shiva ends. And the family – Marvin’s family, Marvin’s wife, Richard’s Mom – will be alone. There will be audible silence. There will be a gaping absence.
And as a child, I remember: playing with Richard and his family, while his father, Marvin, smiled in the background. A consummate support, steady and there.
Marvin, your love is still present. The love you gave to others is carried in their hearts, passed on to those they love; and it will be passed on again to future hearts, and on and on.
A piece of you, Marvin, will continue to love many more than you could in your lifetime.
Reconnecting with Richard, I missed Marvin through the phone.
Hi. My name is Stephen Tesher. I am a writer and an educator. Most importantly, I am a father. I've authored three books, staged numerous plays and written screenplays, articles, and this blog.
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Black Ice, by Stephen Tesher: