The Great Unknown (Unknown Person, photo credit: Wikipedia)
My wife and I attended the funeral of a neighbor this past weekend. His name was Eddie.
Eddie, whose particulars I will not get into to maintain family privacy, was someone my wife’s family had known for a long time. Eddie was also a fixture on his patio, smokin’ cigarettes and tossing balls (and other objects) for his dog to chase after. He is survived by his kids, mom, and other family members.
What is the measure of a person?
What is the sum total of one’s life?
How does one’s death affect everyone they’d ever met?
There are so many variables that go into any life, and trying to summarize those into an hour or so’s service in their honor is just crazy impossible…but said services are not about summarizing the passing of the life in question…they’re about closure for the those who remain behind. About missing the sound of the deceased’s voice, his or her laughter, the touch and feel of his or her’s hands or kisses. The strength of their hugs. How they helped you through your problems, or how you helped them through theirs. How you laughed and cried together. How they “reality checked” you. The security of their presence…how they strode across the Earth and played with children, lent dimensions of depth to our lives. The sparkle and life of their resilient, oh-so-alive eyes….
Eddie was a handsome devil in his younger years, and certainly still handsome in his later years (and by “later years,” I mean he was about my age), including the sporting of a beard that kinda gave him that sea-captain-of-yore look. We always hailed each other and sometimes entered into conversation (and sometimes or two a good laugh) when we were both out back, me grilling, mowing, or doing other yard work. Whatever was going on with him—and inside him, because the exterior is a mirror of the interior—he always seemed to take things in stride. He recently told me he’d been very happy in starting up a new hobby/business venture that had always kinda interested him.
“How ya doin’, Frank!”
The wafting of his cigarette smoke (yes, it was only a little annoying, and well…).
It became a “thing.”
His medical condition just never quite got better, and he kept finding himself in the hospital or some extended care facility. We weren’t “close,” in that we went out, hung out, kinda thing (we traveled in very different circles), but I did help him and his mother out in various ways. Unexpectedly—at least to my wife and I—he made that final trip into the Great Unknown we label Death, and we just couldn’t believe it.
He’d been on the mend.
He looked and sounded strong-as-bull, same mischievous tone to his voice. It was a strong voice. His energy felt good about him. He was once more returned to the “old Eddie,” the healthier Eddie—
Next thing I know…gone.
I didn’t know Eddie in depth, but I had known him for many years as a polite and pleasant neighbor. Never had a problem with him. He seemed like a good man, a man just trying to get by, provide for his kids, his mother (his dad had died a few years ago). And he was always fun to talk with. We’d offered our services and checked up on him and his mom during the nasty flooding in our area this past summer. We always looked for him every time we went outside, so it’s no longer the same, going out there picking up on the smell of his cigarettes, no longer seeing him there, in his usual perch, his dog looking for me in that usual ways dogs do….
In our deaths, we affect other’s lives. We leave voids, unfinished sentences. Our presence in life builds an expected stability to our lives, knowing we can depend on the surety of life, a community, like pleasant friends or neighbors we enjoy interacting with in our own, personal ways. Keeping an eye out for each other. And when we leave…our ghosts remain…as we look in their gone directions and ghost patios and still see them waving to us with their unique smiles. Still hear their now-hollow voices only in our minds. It’s a weird thing, when you think about it, and such a young man…gone, now…actually leaving a void in the lives of two people not related to him….
Do you ever think about the people you know who have died that you weren‘t close to?
But, as with family members I’ve lost, I’m not sad for them…sure, I miss them and their presence and everything that goes with that…but, I’m happy and excited for them. They’ve made the decision (I believe we all choose the timing of our deaths) to move on. Done what they’ve come to do and experience.Eddie is free to return to Earthly life or move on, and I’m glad he spent some of that time in our circle of influence.
I wonder what he’s doing now.
So, to that sea captain of yore, I bid you fair winds and following seas, Eddie! Thanks for spending part of your life on this Earth in our company, and may your further adventures be exciting and fulfilling!
Oh, and, one more thing…
One day, shortly after having heard of Eddie’s passing, I went out back on our deck…and smelled cigarette smoke.
I’d shot a look in “his” direction (for real and fast—it was that weird).