Thursday, January 08, 2009

Cherish every rainbow rising in the sky in spite of the rain...

So it is officially an epidemic of pondering around these parts. I have discussed the issue of trust and friendship at least 30 times in the last month with a good 15-20 people--only 5 times have I been the one to bring up the subject. Roman and Greek philosophers such as Cicero and Laelius wrote many treatises on the subject with great passion. The Bible itself contains a good number of examples: David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Jesus and Lazarus. This is just a low quality story and is not meant or able to rival any of the other sources.

So this is right after one of the best summers of my life (Math program in California). I was building a puzzle of L.A. in my parents house in Puerto Rico when the phone rang and my "plans" changed.

Me: Hello
Christel: Hello, Patricia...
(Christel's tone is very business like which is not uncommon for her, but she worked hard to get to the next few words--this made it harder to understand what she said next)

Christel: I have some very bad news.. You remember Kevin?

Boy did I remember Kevin! Kevin was the most awesome guy in the world. We were all in grad school together. Grad school is very trying. Kevin didn't have it all figured out, but he sure as hell helped as much as he could to get us to feel welcome and figure stuff out. I loved Kevin like the big brother he took upon himself to be. I bugged him to stop smoking, but would stand outside with him while he smoked all the same.

He was very tall, very sweet, a huge teddy bear like no one else I ever knew. He was also very deep. We had a number of very interesting conversations about life, heritage, love, family, God, our beloved islands in the Caribbean and math. He was always encouraging me to push through in grad school.

As a matter of fact, I had been thinking about him and even e-mailed him without response a few weeks before Christel's call with no response. I figured he was busy...

Patricia: Of course... How is he doing?
Christel: Yes, so they found him dead. Apparently he died on Monday (July 21st, 2003)

Dead what? Dead serious? Where is Michael laughing in the background? C'mon guys this is not funny...

Patricia: What do you mean dead?
Christel; His roommate found him dead in his room. His brother is making arrangements to take his body back to the island. There will be a memorial service later in the week.
Patricia: What do you mean dead? What happened? Was he sick?
Christel: He had had food poisoning. No one really knows what happened and his family is keeping everything private. He has had a rough semester overall.
Patricia: Send me the details of the memorial.
Christel: Ok, but you will not be in town.
Patricia: No problem.

So a few other things about Kevin: he was sick an awful lot and he rarely complained. But, food poisoning? How could food poisoning take MY friend? How could a little food poisoning take down a guy as big as Kevin?

I did the only natural thing... I continued to build my puzzle.

Mom: Who was that?
Patricia: Christel
Mom: What happened?
Patricia: Oh, she was just telling me about a kid in school who died...

I must have sounded very convincing because she did not pick up at all on what the news meant: I had lost my dear Kevin. Actually, I think I was convincing because the news hadn't made it all the way in my head yet. Either way, I realized there was something odd that just happened. I tried to understand what was going on. What went wrong. A few minutes later, I had it all figured out. I called Christel back with my conclusion. She said they had decided not to tell me the whole story until I got back.

I should have kept in touch like I said I would! I am a tool for not doing so, life is sooo short. That would not have changed the outcome since some things were already in gear which I could not stop, or could I? It took a long time to make peace with the fact that Kevin was not coming back. It took longer to make peace with the fact that I wasted the last 2 months of time I had with Kevin by not staying in touch. I had phantom Kevin syndrome for a very long time. I would think "oh, I need to tell Kevin this" or "oh, Kevin is not in yet" or "should I wait for him to go to lunch?" The calls coming in our shared office asking for kevin in the following year did not help. I was in shock.

I tried to blame his death on other people and when I got tired of assigning guilt, I heard the full story from another source. Then I understood that there are things you cannot change and there are things outside your control. Everyone must travel their own road and all you can do is be there, open ears to hear their calling for help, open arms to help them stand up and open heart so you can rejoice in the memories later.

Today, 5.5 years later, I still think of Kevin. He was so right about so many things and so wrong about so many others. I took for granted that he would be there when I came back. This is a bad philosophy of life because there is no promise of tomorrow. We should live today, every day, like there is no tomorrow. Real friends are special gifts from God/life with unknown expiration dates. Few are meant to stay a lifetime, no matter how hard we try. But we serve them and ourselves best if we maximize the little or long time we have together by putting all we got on the line and worrying about picking up the pieces later. Worrying before loving is a recipe for regret and missed opportunities or as L.M. Montgomery puts it: Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.

"Dance like no one is watching, love like you'll never be hurt,sing like no one is listening,and live like it's heaven on earth."- William Purkey

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