Every year, around the anniversary of his death, I sit and think about a friend. I’ve done this for several July’s in a row. This year I did not. My daughter had been born and I was utterly distracted from my normal habits.
In high school he was an atheist. We often argued about God’s existence (despite being in debate class I found political debates boring). In college, he had a break from reality connected to several bad habits he’d developed in high school.
Before he graduated, classmates gave him a dose of real-talk about the probable results of his excessive drinking. He had been one of the brightest guys I’d ever met, and I tried to surround myself only with people I thought were very bright, he rose to the top. He excelled, especially, at music theory and debate. He was two years older than me. At this point we were not friends.
Anyway, out of the blue, he contacted me when I was in college. He claimed to have become a Christian as a result of his apparent breakdown. He wrote a bunch of music. He even offered to help my brother’s band produce an album, presumably as a kindness to me. His conversion experience seemed sincere, though some of our mutual friends told me that they weren’t sure he wasn’t pulling an elaborate prank.
We spent the weekend with my roommates and I. We attended some concerts, debated Scripture, and talked about stupid high school antics. From this point on, he would regularly call me. He eventually asked me to baptize him, so I did. This took place over about 2 years, with the baptism somewhere in the middle. I slept so little from 2003-2010 that anything within that time frame seems almost simultaneous.
From 2008-2010, we stayed in touch, grabbed food a few times when he was in town. Sometimes, I ignored his phone calls. It was never personal and he knew he usually contacted me in what could only be described as hypermanic states.
In 2010, he died. Causes were never made public. I have my suspicions, but they don’t matter. Since then, I go to his MySpace music page and listen to the good songs once a year. I used to go to the funeral home webpage to reread his obituary, but two or three years ago, it went down. Eventually, the MySpace page will be gone. I checked it last week and none of his old songs would play. That’s a shame because my brother and I both lost his album.
I don’t like being sad. I don’t reminisce to make myself sad. I accept the ancient belief that it’s important to remember the dead so that they remain active in history. I don’t mean animism, but that specifically remembering people brings their words and actions into history anew. That feels especially true to me if they never had children. There are men and women whose deaths go unremembered every day. Christ remembers them. But, it just seems intuitively right to try to hold those who were close to you in your heart if you can. And it’s not that I don’t believe in heaven or the resurrection from the dead. I do. I just believe that history matters and people are supposed to remain in it longer than 28 years or so.
I similarly call to memory two other friends. One died when I was in high school. My last words to him were when I was tutoring him in geometry and he was refusing to grasp the concept (we played soccer together so the harshness is playful): Don’t be such a f*cking idiot. Remembering him reminds me to be circumspect with my words. Going to a funeral for a Christian brother and soccer teammate while remembering that as your last conversation is sobering.
The other isn’t known to have died, but he has disappeared.
Now, I wrote this short reflection for personal reasons. I never meant to post it. But the months-off timing of my recollections was bizarre this year.