The spirit is always bound to return from where it came. When Abraham Lincoln’s young son passed away, he was heard remarking, “He was too good for this world.” Lincoln knew implicitly his son returned to God, the King of Goodness.
The spirit made manifest in our bodies is greater than this world. In death, the deeper quests of understanding make their rounds to inform the soul on what it needs to do; to take a look at life, breathe in every breath of existence, every sniff of memory, every taste of pleasure and pain in order to establish a context for the next journey.
This is what we should be doing in life and death teaches us this. When we lose someone close, we are reminded to live each day gratefully, humbly and solemnly with joy in our heart.
My old childhood friend Brian made his transition. He was fifty-two years old, and left a wife and three young children. As I sit and write this, I’m thinking of his goodness. In the throes of his illness, he called me to check in. He wanted to know how I was doing battling Covid-19 while he himself was battling the last days of cancer. It was never about him.
Looking over an old text we’re talking like two old men about our aches and pains. He tells me about sitting with his son watching a baseball game, trips with his kids to Randy’s donuts in LA, and I immediately conjure the days of old in my mind. Playing pinball in his basement, swimming in his pool, water skiing on a camping trip to Pennsylvania. Laughing at his Uncle Harvey chomping on a cigar as he skied on the glassy lake. Listening to Brian play a soulful sax solo, striking a pose to reach that one seemingly impossible note. The normal routines of boyhood coming to play with my memories for a time in the twilight of grief.
The roil of years and the events that shaped our progress take hold. The challenges, the joys, the blissful times of microbrews and parties, the shows, eating his delicious food and sharing a good word of encouragement in a city that tended to wrangle the senses into questioning everything. Knowing I was two thousand miles away from home and had my friend to welcome me to his home whenever I needed it, gave me comfort.
He became an Angelino first and told me I should check it out and give it a try. His love of the city quickly became a love for me. He settled down there, and I’ve since moved on. That’s the way life is.
We don’t really know when we will go and how it will happen. When death happens to a young person, it just begs the unanswerable question why? We move on seeking a satisfactory answer that works for now, but the question will arrive in a new way and inform us as we age.
Never thought my pal would pass so young. An avid runner, healthy eater who cut a slender figure and didn’t seem to gain or lose an ounce of weight; a soulful liver of life who poured every ounce of love into his family and friends like he did with his cuisine.
Still, he is hallowed in the memories of sincerity that echo in the heart; a kind word of optimism with the raise of an eyebrow, an encouraging nod to the future with a giggle of assurance in the face of adversity or the simple tap on the chest in the telling of a joke followed by a burst of laughter at his own amusing turn of phrase.
These echoes reverberate in a greater sense. They were made known through the power of an individual personality and etched in expressions uniquely his own.
No two people are alike. No two fingerprints are the same. No two snowflakes form the same crystals. There’s never going to be another friend like him.
I like to think he lived life so fully that he outlived this world. It was his time to move on. But I also like to think that the indelible expressions of glee we shared in the moment travel to space and are just reaching a new star like a beam of light being shot from a flashlight.
It all points to something alive to me. Living in every word, every phrase ever uttered. There’s more. There is so much more. There was so much to explore as children, even more through our experience with our own legacies and the children we raise, and more in the lives of those yet to come.
The context of our lives is real and establishes blessings we cannot imagine, legacies we cannot fathom and destinies shaped by subtle invitations to explore.
Brian helped me explore life. He welcomed me into his life as a childhood friend. He invited me out to California. Even in death, his example in life and the way he maneuvered the obstacles of death invites me to believe that he knew implicitly there was something more.
He courageously conquered with his quiet optimism and kind assurance.
When I think of my friend, I see him sitting back in his yard on a sunny day, seasoning a steak, listening to old tunes, tipping back a microbrew he crafted as we both wonder how we ended up here in a beautiful house in Los Angeles, California. Never saw that coming when we were cruising the streets of Cleveland on a cold winter’s night, going to a basketball game.
Jesus once said, “My father’s house has many mansions.” We can only imagine what that means and each person has to derive his own conclusions. “The spirit returns from where it came.” It unites in the Kingdom of God – a place of peace and fulfillment.
I surmise that I will see my buddy again one day because the joyful moments we shared together point to something more. Brian’s sitting with his soprano sax by a fire in a cozy house beyond the veil, creating a place for me and others to visit.
It’s comforting to know a part of him is still here in the memories we shared. I believe in the life beyond the veil. We all come full circle to the happiness we once understood. I know my pal has found that wherever he is now.