Monday, September 7, 2015
Best I could, I celebrated the life of a friend, today. My mood (as you can see in the photo above) wasn't particularly celebratory, but neither was anyone else's. It was a sober occasion.
I met my friend in the blogosphere about a year ago upon googling something related to Richmond and photography. (I forget what, exactly.) This guy, he knew something about everything, and he knew a lot about photography. I've had a lot of questions over the course of the last year, and he was incredibly generous with his knowledge.
He was incredibly generous, in general. At every turn, he gave more than he took. He would meet me for dinner, answer questions until my mind couldn't hold any more answers, and pay the bill. Whatever questions I asked between dinners, he answered thoroughly, thoughtfully, immediately. And he seemed excited to be a go-to person for me, also genuinely excited by my growth as a photographer.
He was constantly affirming, constantly encouraging...so much so that I was a bit baffled. I wondered on more than one occasion: what's in it for this guy? Why is he being so...nice to me?
He read and commented on my blog faithfully and said often that my family reminded me of his, growing up. (He was one of four children.) I was 15-16 years younger than he, but he also remarked more than once that I reminded him of his mother. He missed her so much, he said. He loved me, he said, for bringing her back to him in certain ways.
Still, I wondered. It takes awhile for me to trust (really trust) someone. Years and years. A decade, maybe. And long before I had the chance to figure out my friend, he took his own life. He warned us it might happen, then told us why it did.
I attended a celebration of my friend's life, today, because I believe (really believe) in being a friend in death. I'm not going to guess or judge, I told myself; I'm just going. I have no idea what to expect, and I won't know a soul, but he was my friend. Whatever the situation that precipitated his suicide, he was my friend! He was never anything! but kind to me and, come to think of it, my entire family. (He helped move my older daughter's piano.)
And here's something I've said before: often, if people do things for others, expecting nothing in return and from a perfect place in their hearts, the Lord, in His great mercy, will reveal that they have done those things for themselves. Based upon the remembrances shared, today, I think my friend possessed an intimate understanding of this concept. He was the ultimate volunteer, they said. He showed up early and stayed late. We'll have a hard time replacing him, they said, and it may be impossible. Nothing made him happier than helping others.
And person after person said: he changed my life by believing in me.
Best I could, I celebrated the life of a friend, today. I wanted to be a friend until the bitter end. Then a tall man with a small Bible walked to the front of the room and reminded me: perseverance of the saints. (Google it.) This is not the end.
And thank goodness, because my friend was just as kind as he seemed.
Rest in peace, Jay. I will dearly miss your encouragement.