Friday, February 6, 2009

Happy Birthday

I have been thinking of my friend today because it would have been his 38th birthday. He died almost five years ago (can't believe it is that long!) after a failed bone marrow transplant in an effort to cure his Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. He left behind two young sons, (ages 3 years and 4 months), and his brave wife--also a friend. And of course the rest of us, bewildered and sad.
His wife asked everyone to please write a letter to the boys about my friend--a memory, a story, something to help these children know their father. I thought it was a splendid idea and I took the task very seriously. Truly, I felt my friend was guiding me as to what to put into the letter. I fought it (we fought like siblings!!), but in the end he won, and I am glad he did.
I asked for permission to post the letter here, and it was given. I think his message, through my words, is important to revisit now and again. (I have edited the letter to leave out real names and specific locations for the children's privacy.)
Rest in peace my friend, we miss you, we miss you, we miss you.
May 5, 2004

Dear Boys,

I went to college with your dad. I met him freshman year when he shared a dorm room with someone I knew from high school, and I knew your dad for around 13 years at the time he passed away. After that first year, for the rest of his time at college, in some capacity, he roomed with a friend that I would later marry. I had the dorm room next door to your mom, and that is how I met her and became friends. We were all a very close-knit bunch, like a little family. We hung out and ate together and fought and made-up and helped each other with homework and debated and laughed together, we got on each other's nerves, and knew we could always count on each other, much like a real family does. Some of us went on to marry each other, like your mom and dad, T.D. & A.D. and my husband and me. I always felt so lucky to be part of our group at college. I don't think it was such a common thing to have such a close bunch for the entire time we were there, and I feel so fortunate that we remained close throughout the years, although I know we did not see each other as much as we all would have liked. We have seen each other at our best and worst, and accepted one another despite our faults and more positive traits. We all have a history together, and that is something to be valued. It is something that will always bind us together no matter how many years pass.

I spent a lot of time trying to decide what memory of your dad that I wanted to share with you. Let's face it, some of the memories will have to wait until YOU are in college to hear, ha ha! And how does one choose from the years and years of memories? What one memory would embody who your father was to me? These were some of the questions going through my mind. As I searched my memories, one kept surfacing and coming to the front of my mind.

When we were still in the dorms, your dad and I had some time in the afternoon when everyone else was still in class. I would go up to his room and we would watch Bugs Bunny cartoons. Sometimes we would chat a little, it was never anything monumental, it was always quiet and restful. We just unwound together and sat, they were rare quiet moments in loud dorm and busy life. Well, that is not a very exciting memory to share of all of thirteen years, so I spent some time thinking why it kept coming to my mind, and didn't want to be shoved aside, when there MUST be something more exciting to share with you. I think now that your dad was trying to send me a message.

I think the reason for the memory coming back to me again and again is that maybe some of the best moments with each other are those "non-moments" when nothing very exciting has to happen. They are those quiet times when you are just with someone you care about, when you don't have to say anything, when you can just be, which are some of the best times. Maybe those are the kinds of times that make up a life, the moments between the funny stories and crazy incidents. Maybe those "non-moments" are really the moments that mean the most. Since your dad has left this world, I am finding myself recognizing and taking pleasure in these non-moments instead of waiting for the next "big thing" to happen.

I am pleased that I was able to share some of those moments of your dad's life with him, as well as with your mom and pleased to call them my friends. I miss him dearly.

I will count my blessings tonight, both large and small, as I have almost every day since my friend passed. It is my way to honor him, my way to show how much his life did matter to me.


Christy said...

That is truly beautiful. :)

Coreen said...

Hi Mary, this is Coreen, Paul's sister. Thank you for the wonderful message. Janine forwarded your blog to us. I went to mom and dads on Friday and we reminisced about Paul throughout dinner. He will always be remembered in our hearts forever. Although your 'calm' memories of him are great. Being a little sister, in a little house there were no 'calm' memories of Paul growing up. Unless, of course, he was sleeping.
Take Care

Ginny said...

Just beautiful. I'm sure his children will treasure your letter and someday will ask for more of your stories about their dad. A lovely tribute to your friendship.

loveofbeads said...

Coreen--laughing out loud about the only calm memories of Paul when he was sleeping! :-) I'm glad you had a chance you get together with "Bill and Ritz" as he always called them!

You take care, too!