Friday, December 4, 2015

Reflections On The Death Of A Friend

We received some bad news last Saturday morning. It began, as most of these things do in today's social media age, with an Instant Message. It became a "We need to talk on the phone, IMs aren't sufficient for this."

That's never a good sign. It's the modern-day equivalent of the land-line phone ringing in the middle of the night, an occurrence that most of us grew up fearing.

The news was bad. No, scratch that. It was horrible. A friend of ours had passed away suddenly in the middle of the night. Initial reports pointed to some sort of respiratory infection that quickly spread into his blood stream. He never even made it to 50.

What followed was what you would expect when someone passes away today; people slowly began finding out, posts reflecting sympathy, grief, shock, and loss hit the social networks. Plans were made (and still are, at this writing), announcements given, pictures and memories posted.

Over the week, I've read an enormous amount of these messages, despite how painful it could be sometimes. I'll be honest; I wasn't a super-close friend of his. My wife Carol knew him better by virtue of them working together over the years on numerous decorating projects for the haunt convention that the House of Terra participates in. And yet I was close enough to feel that loss. Personally, when I get bad news like this, I tend to be fairly okay immediately afterwards. It's only after a little time has gone by, at least a day, when things finally sink in and the grief hits out of the blue with the intensity of a sledgehammer.

There's been quite a share of sledgehammer blows over the week, I don't mind saying.

But there are two truths about this tragedy that I've come away with, and now you have them too...

First of all, the world has lost one Hell of a cool man. This guy had such talent, such skill, such creativity, such enthusiasm, such a fun-loving way about him, and now that's gone. This is a profound loss. Because of his passing, the world is a little less imaginative, a little less creative, and a little less weird. And if there's one thing this sad world needs in abundance these days, is more of us weirdos.

The nice kind of weirdos, mind you. Not the ones you'd find on an episode of "Criminal Minds". Just wanted to make that clear.

The second truth, one that I was reminded of, is that we never know when we've hit the end of the tour. Some of the posts I read said things like "We had plans to meet..", or "We were going to do this next month". We always think we have all of the time in the world, and we make our plans, confident that they'll come to pass. Then every now and then the rug gets pulled out from under us, and it knocks us off-kilter. We feel confused and powerless.

So what do you do with this? Two things. First, don't take the people around you for granted. They may be gone tomorrow. Or you might. This is not meant to foster fear or paranoia, but rather to remind us to enjoy the people in your life.

Secondly, if you have friends that you have had a falling out with over something that started off as a minor thing, but somehow escalated and got out of control, consider changing that. Sometimes, the stupidest things cause a rift between friends, and things get progressively worse until both parties are no longer speaking. That's when eventually someone takes a good look around and says "Wait, how did things so trivial become so toxic?"

Life's too short to break with friends over petty junk. Before you know it, one or the other is gone, and your last contact with them will have been animosity, bad feelings, and silence. Is it worth leaving things in such a state over something that really wasn't all that big a deal in the first place? Unfortunately, sometimes it takes something huge and tragic, like a death, to set things into perspective.

I experienced this back in 2000. That spring, a scary number of relatives on my father's side (including my father), were getting sick and/or dying. It made me realize life was too short, and I began mending fences with a handful of people I wasn't talking to for one reason or another. My efforts yielded mixed results, but by far the best outcome was that I began dating one of them and we eventually married. We've been deliriously happy ever since ::waves at Carol::

Of course, over time, there's been new incidents and rifts to take the old ones' places. That's inevitable, that's life. In fact, in order to prevent the "hypocrite" tag, I admit there's a half dozen former friends I don't talk to anymore, but the reasons are by no means petty. We all have those hopelessly deadlocked situations, and this message isn't meant to address those.

But then again, one should never slam a door completely shut, should they? There's always hope, and people change.

Okay, time to get back on track and wrap this up. Bottom line: life is too short and you don't know when you or people around you will no longer be around. Enjoy and appreciate the good times with friends and loved ones. Take a hard look at the damaged bridges you have with past friends and see if maybe, just maybe, some of those bridges can be repaired.

As for our friend, Christopher Silvia, 1966-2015, it was a pleasure and honor to have known him. It was a joy and an amazing experience to witness the creations he came up with (the man was a freaking MacGyver with a glue gun), and we will all miss him terribly.

Rest in peace, Chris.