There are few times that I am kept awake because I have not written and there is too much going on in my head.
Today is one of those days.
Last night was yet another successful night in Germany, filled with friends and endless wine and conversation. I arrived back at my house when the sun was rising, pink and hopeful, surrounded by dismal rain clouds and the air cool. Arriving home at 6am is telling of a good night, one that causes my head to pound and leaving my mouth dry and unquenched by iced coffee. I begged for more than the three hours of sleep I was allotted, but the racing in my head and the draft paragraphs that circled my brain would not allow for more. I was to be up and writing, even if fuzzy and not coherent.
And so here I am. Writing in a haze of yesterday’s, or is it todays? wine, exhausted and forgetful of where the alphabet lies beneath my fingers.
I ended this version of wine fest at a friend’s house, at 3am, with more wine and a carton of cigarettes and a playlist on youtube that begged to be sang. We did our normal rendition of We Are the World and other various country songs that we know where written only for us. We swayed and we belted out lyrics and we smoked and we drank as the rest of the world slept. I still, to this day, have no idea why alcohol makes us want to sing We Are the World, but we have long given up on evaluating our absurd wine induced behavior. We Are the World and that’s all there is to it. End of story.
“I’ve missed you,” she said, and I missed her too, even though we live twenty minutes apart.
“I’m sorry I’ve been so busy,” I offered, which was no excuse for not seeing such a good friend.
“I’ve been busy too,” she countered, which was true and not true, and we both sat there in agreeance that we were both at fault and both lazy with no good excuse.
“I heard you had a bad week recently, and I’m sorry I wasn’t there.” I told her this meaning it. I had heard she had dealt with the anniversary of a friend’s death this month and with her, I didn’t have to tell her that my death month had left me so mentally exhausted that it left no real sympathy for the pain of others.
“You had a bad month too.” She was kind like that, always letting me off the hook. I had a bad month, but really, not the one I had wanted to have. I dealt with very little pain and memories this month. I had somehow decided to let August this year slip by without setting something on fire and without causing an awkward scene involving the ashes of my father. I am too confused and angry this fourth year to give in to the deep seeded pain I can feel hidden behind my rib cage.
“I heard you had another anniversary of your friend’s death and I’m sorry. It never gets easier and there’s nothing I can say to try and change it.”
“He died and I miss him.” She pulled up a picture of him and her and they were smiling, half embracing, her wearing a tye-died dress and light hair and him with a bright shirt and complimentary tan. They looked happy and I hated looking at him because he was just a ghost in a picture that would be worn and tattered one day. I had too many of the same photos that I never took out or touched anymore.
“You saw him die. You were there. You can’t change that.” I was drunk and I do my best death talking when I’m brilliant via wine. She nodded and looked sad and stared at the wall and then at the TV and then back at me.
We had been watching Top Gun at three in the morning. Top Gun. The adult onesies and Tom Cruise arrogance never gets old. And, let’s be honest, 3am is the best time of day to be heartbroken over Maverick. I assure you of this.
Years ago, two I think but I can’t be sure right now, my friend watched her friend base jump off the Alps in front of her. They were thrill seekers. Adventurists. They lived to feel tears down their faces and wind ripping through their clothes at speeds meant only for highway driving as they swan dived off cliffs that in beauty alone took your breath away. They were adrenaline junkies and the sound of a parachute dropping was as normal to them as a cork popping is to me.
His parachute didn’t open that trip, or it did but failed miserably, and my friend, along with her other friends, watched him take his last jump.
She never went next.
“I still can’t believe he’s dead. And I’m sorry, I know you are still dealing with your Dad…” She lingered and I didn’t need her apology. I was neither dealing or not dealing. Such is my passive aggressive attempt at healing.
And so this is where the lesson begins, the reason I decided to blog about this, because I don’t blog about serious topics and I don’t blog about things that keep me up at night. Too dramatic, too personal, too uneasy to dismiss.
“You are forgetting that he lived. You are only remembering that he died. And you were there, so you have every right to remember that, but you are forgetting the things he’d want you to remember. No one that dies jumping off a cliff wants you to remember that. They want you to remember that you jumped with them and not that this was their last but that you jumped together all the time.”
She looked as though I reminded her of something she had forgotten and seemed less sad but not convinced that remembering life was going to help.
I thought of the sign that hangs in my house.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but the moments that take our breath away.
CHris’ father gave that sign to me after my father died. And of all the quotes I can remember, which isn’t many, this one is true.
“He died doing something he loved. And I am sure he is fine with how he went out. If you think about all the ways to die, most people choose in their sleep. That is fucking boring. He jumped and felt the wind and it was the last thing he felt. You should be happy for him. We all die, he just did it doing something he loved. We should all be so lucky.”
I told her how I wanted to die in a plane crash. I’ve told Chris this, but the conversation usually ends there because Mr. H does not do morbid and he does not like my casual chats about the bad stuff. I realized I’ve probably never told my mother my preferred end of existence, but I remembered I had told my sister. Statistically, it could be likely with all my travel, and I’d want my sister to be ok with that. She is, after all, the keeper of all of my bad stuff.
“A plane crash? That’s awful.” She didn’t quite understand so I continued, happy she was drunk enough to entertain my ramblings and not be scared of my preferences.
“Yes, a plane crash,” I continued. “Because if you think about it, I’ve already done what I came here to do. I’ve traveled and I’ve seen the world and I’ve terrorized a whole new slew of people and I am happy. I have what I want and I would be fine with a plane crash, but I’d prefer the plane to burst like a firework. I want an explosion worthy of the life I lived and I want my exit to be as memorable as my existence. I would be on the way back from a new country or on my way to a new adventure. I would go doing something I truly loved and I would hope people would know that I was happy and that I would leave being content with no regrets. And so yes, a plane crash. I think for me, that seems fitting.”
She didn’t have anything to add and somehow I seemed to make sense. It was the wine, surely, but I felt good that someone understood.
I do not attempt to sit around and teach lessons on this blog. I would never pretend I know more than the next person and I don’t take my own advice so I would never push my thoughts on the random on others. But in this case, with less than three hours sleep and fueled by alcohol induced wisdom, I will push.
Losing anyone is the hardest thing anyone will probably ever encounter. It leaves an emptiness that time or love will never fill. It’s confusing and it’s maddening and it’s make yourself throw up awful in a way that never truly stops, it only dulls. But if there is one thing I’ve learned in loss, it’s this.
No one wants you to remember they have left. They want you to remember they lived. And if they did so in a glorious fashion that leaves you telling stories filled with roaring laughter and salty tears, then all is not lost. It is just different. And so choosing to remember life and not loss is just that, a choice. But it is the right one, and it is the one that will leave you smiling and it is the one that will help you defeat regret.
Because life lived to its fullest is the very best last chapter.