Hizzy is dead.
I learned about his death this morning when I realized he hadn’t posted anything on Facebook in a while. Sometimes, for whatever technological glitch causes this, Facebook shuts off notifications I receive from some people and I have to manually reset the option. I imagined this was the case with Hizzy, and went to his page to see what was new. That’s when I saw links that confirmed he’d died less than a month ago.
We met in college, he was a year ahead of me, were roommates for a year (during which time we, along with a few other buddies, kept one or two breweries operating in the black), and I was a groomsman at his first wedding. Our friendship lasted a couple of years post-college, until life took over. After graduation, he moved to Minnesota (later to West Virginia), and wasn’t a particularly good correspondent. Our friendship became of the annual Christmas card variety until his divorce. Without his ex to maintain the connection, our relationship pretty much faded.
Until Facebook, that is. The reason I enjoy Facebook is because it has allowed me to reconnect with so many people I’d lost hope on ever contacting again; people whose various moves rendered them unfindable short of my hiring a private investigator. Because of the social media platform, I have experienced the joy of reconnecting with three cousins (one of whom I’d had no contact with for fifty years) and about two dozen friends from many years past – including Hizzy.
And, so, at about 5 this morning, I found myself reflecting on some Hizzy-memories. For a brief moment, a tear began developing but never truly formed. About a year ago, a similar tear never quite formed when I learned of the death of another friend from many years past. For about six months, Sye and I had been in graduate school together and while six months is a relatively short time period, a strong friendship formed. (Indeed, isn’t that how most strong friendships and relationships are formed? It doesn’t take long for the soul to know something is right.) Again, time and distance and moves, along with the lack of technology connections that are taken for granted today, led to our losing contact. Again, an on-line obituary told me of Sye’s passing at a much-too-early age. The tear that didn’t form fully that time was born from frustration. I had tried for a long time to track down my friend, and felt cheated by the timing of technology.
But over the years, there are many tears that have formed and fallen. Tears of anger, of frustration, of sorrow. Of sorrow for the wrong reason. And there have been tears of joy, as well. Each time, the tears have provided for me the right environment for perspective. I am reminded of a speaker I heard, several years ago, speaking about the importance of tears. She pointed out that our eyes are susceptible to all sorts of dirt and bacteria and the release of tears washes away most, if not all, of the dirt and detritus. So it is only after we cry that we truly can see things clearly. It is much easier to have a good perspective when one’s vision—physical or emotional—isn’t occluded by the film of extraneous matter. The same can be said of one’s inner vision.
I wept with joy on the days my sons were born.
I wept in pain, leaving the hospital at 2:30 in the morning, after my son, Zack, was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes at age six and-a-half.
I cried silently, holding the hand of my beloved wife, as she slept in a deep, drugged sleep following major surgery.
The tears fell openly, in a combination of frustration, anger, sorrow, and fear, on the day when the dementia that claimed my mother caused her to temporarily forget who I was.
It took a few days, but I cried after my father died. Not for the end of his life, but for the relationship we never had and, now, would never have.
But all these tears contained, to some degree, tears of clarity. In each instance, once weeping ended my mind went into hyperdrive.
From the tears of joy at my sons’ births, came the sobering realization that I was, now and forever, a parent, with a long list of responsibilities to ensure that no matter what, their needs had to come first.
I had long stopped crying when my wife came out of the anesthesia, knowing that she needed to see me strong for her. She would recover, and life with her would go on.
Sitting in my car in the hospital’s parking lot, dry-eyed after the emotions had caught up to me, I understood that Zack was stronger than I could imagine and, to be honest, so was I. Diabetes, though threatening, was manageable.
Walking away from the nursing home, my soul all but eviscerated, I understood that love doesn’t need recognition or to be recognized.
Standing graveside at my father’s funeral, I pondered decisions he’d made about me and wondered how many he’d regretted but never admitted to, and then thought the same about some of my own decisions regarding him. The wondering continues, almost ten years later.
And now, thinking about Hizzy and Sye, I ponder how many times we—each and every one of us—fail to continue connections only to end up thinking those damnable words, “what might have been.” We tend to say that we don’t do things because life gets in the way, and that’s true. But it is an equally valid point that life only gets in the way; it doesn’t prevent a way; that’s what death is for, and death does a really good job of that.
Having learned of Hizzy’s death, I contacted several friends from the “old days” who would want to know. They all responded quickly, and with regrets. But one, it turns out, lives very close to me, and he and I will meet tomorrow and relive memories—some real; some, I’m certain, well, slightly embellished—over a cup of coffee. We haven’t seen or spoken to each other since the early 1970’s and I know I am very much looking forward to this meeting. Thank you for that, Hizzy. Thank you, very much.
Requiescat in pace, old friend. May there be a benevolent afterlife, and may it have beer.