On the death of a friend. *note: this post is a repeat, originally shared 25 april 2014.
Not at all what I had thought I’d write about. I had thought more along the lines of getting acquainted with me, your blogger. By way of introduction, quasi-bio, to develop and establish our blogosphere friendship.
The death of a cherished friend this week decided for me. It’s not easy to quantify any friendship, sometimes there’s just a connection, and this friend was that to me. And, I pray, I to him. We shared some deep commonalities, writing among them.
Death, whether sudden or anticipated, is never an easy companion. Aged grandparents who go in their sleep or after long-term health issues is a painful loss, and no matter how we “prepare” we are never ready. Sudden and wretched tragedies we certainly are unprepared for, and perhaps it’s more difficult to process, accept. Traffic accidents, war, suicide, physical violence, abuse, both physical and substance – how do we justify? How do we cope? I know I have a Savior Who holds me in the palm of His hand, Who gives peace when there is none. I have that peace, as I write, I am at peace.
And yet I struggle, did I convey adequately my love, my friendship? Did my friend die with at least the knowledge of my devotion? In his final moments, probably he would not think of me – how selfish am I??? In his final moments, I pray he was thinking of Jesus, ready for His embrace. There is my peace, there is my hope, for the day I will see my friend again.
I woke up yesterday, and again today, and couldn’t believe my friend was gone. I can’t call him, can’t instant message him, can’t pop into his office to playfully harass him anymore. And I can’t process. Not yet. We, all who knew him, there’s a hole in our collective hearts. We are numb. While we struggle through the days ahead, and the months to come, with our friend gone, we also have something the rest of the world doesn’t. We knew him, we counted him as a friend, brother, father. We had the privilege of knowing him. That is now an elite privilege.
What I can do is dedicate this blog to him. What I can do, as his friend, is honor his memory, to continue to live as his friend. A part of me died with my friend – and a part of my friend lives on in me. In all who were friend and family to him. In friendship’s take and give, like dye in water, we take on part of one another. Sam colored my life with kindness, an enigmatic (and very cute) smile, gentleness, with intellect, encouragement, laughter. These I keep, these I treasure, and for these I am truly blessed to be counted as his friend. And that’s forever.
Sam Howie has published fiction and nonfiction in such periodicals as Shenandoah, The Writer’s Chronicle, Fiction International, Potomac Review, and Southern Humanities Review. His work has been anthologized by the Hub city Writers Project and Main Street Rag. Sam received his MFA in 2002 from Vermont College. He [lived] … in Spartanburg, south Carolina, where he [taught] at Convers College. Rapture Practice [was] his first book.
4 May 2916 – I read Sam’s book and I very much enjoyed the stories But they are dark and gritty, delving into ugly and uncomfortable topics. “In the opening story…a man falls into a well that he comes to see as a metaphor for his own life…” David Jauss, back cover copy. Each of Sam’s stories goes beyond the surface, beyond the boundaries of comfortable questions and pretty boundaries.
One story has stuck with me more than the others since I read it a few years ago, Leper’s Lament. The character has scars that no one can see, but they plagued his perception of himself, his identity. When I discussed this with Sam, I’ll never forget his excitement that I “got” the point he was making—that we all have scars, some physical, some not, and our journey, our battle is to discover who we are apart from those scars.
Thank you, Sam, for pouring your heart out onto the page. It is one of the many things I have to remember you by.
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