Thursday, December 13, 2007

When the Cold Wind Blows

The last time I saw him we talked about the kids.

I was going into Target at the beginning of November and he was coming out. It seemed like we would run into each other at this Target once every two months or so, and of course, also at the synagogue when picking our sons up from Machon. I saw his wife at Target almost as frequently, but separately. It seems we frequented the same place for towels, toiletries, and the little stuff you buy on a semi-regular basis. Maybe because that particular Target is only a few blocks from the synagogue, a good place to run errands while our sons studied Judaism.

We were not close friends. I taught for his mother when she was the religious educator at the synagogue. I have never been to his house. But we each had two kids, and his daughter is a year older than my daughter, and his son is two years older than my son. I saw both his kids become bar and bat mitzvah, and he saw one of mine do the same.

When our college-aged daughters were younger, we'd occasionally talk about Star Trek and Rock and Roll. He was a Deadhead, and I prefered Rush, but I enjoyed Terrapin Station and he graciously said that Grace Under Pressure was a good album.
We both thought that B.B. King was one hell of guitarist.

He had a sarcastic sense of humor and that wonderful precision of language employed by techno-geeks who can write. I remember talking about our daughters' college educations and he allowed as to how some aspects of the college experience today are 'profoundly broken.'

He was one of those guys with a great wise-crack, a funny comment, or a kind word. He was there, a part of my community and my life for at least 20 years. When I think of him, I see him as he looked when our daughters were in primary religious school. I hope he thought of me the same way.

In the past year I read a few of his blogs and a blog that belonged to his business partner. I leafed through his book on Outlook --was it Outlook for Dummies, or the Idiot's Guide, or something like that--at the UNM bookstore.

And then last Sunday morning I heard, in a round-about way, that he was in the hospital. A massive myocardial infarction. He had been unconscious for nearly a week. No one knew how long he had been anoxic. The CT scan showed no obvious brain damage, but the EEG was not that of a healthy, conscious person.

I shook my head, thinking about how out of touch I had been. How could this all happen while I was busy with life? I called and left a message for his mom and dad, assuring them of our family's prayers and best wishes. "Is there anything we can do?" I asked, knowing that there was not. And then we went off to Blackman Taekwando holiday party.

On Monday morning I checked my e-mail. The message was the third one from the top. It was from Congregation Albert. Marc Orchant z"l (zichrona l'bracha--may his memory be for a blessing) was the title. Before I opened the message, I sat there and cried. I knew what had happened. His family had to make the decision to take him off of life support.

He was not yet 51. He had boundless energy. He didn't smoke. He was physically fit. He was under some stress, but who isn't? He was on the brink of starting a new job. It was going to be fun. Exciting. The dream job.

I remember him, leaning on the red cart outside of Target. He smiled. He cracked a Star Trek joke. And we talked about the kids.

I am only a few years younger than he was when he died. My husband is a few years older. We are the same generation. "This is unbelievable," we say. "He was young."

At the memorial service we heard that "we shouldn't be here." But we were. His business partner was crying so hard that he had to take off his glasses to read the eulogy. His best friend read song lyrics. "Love is stronger than death," he said. His daughter said that there was something 'profoundly broken' about the fact that the sun could still rise over a planet on which her father no longer dwells.

And we sang Ripple.

"Ripple in still water,
where there is no pebble tossed, no wind to blow..."

"There is a road, no simple highway,
between the dawn and the dark of night.
And if you go, no one may follow.
That path was made for your steps alone.
If you lead then we must follow,
but if you fall, you fall alone.
If you should stand, then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way, I would take you home."

But for me, the cold wind did blow. And, as Jim Croce sang, it turned my head around.
And the 'road, no simple highway' is now closer to the dark of night than the dawn.
And each of us must find our way home.


Melora said...

I'm very sorry for your loss.

Maddy said...

You know this reminds me of when I was little and I would hear my parents talking about such and such a person who had died unexpectedly at the age of....whatever. They were so obviously shocked by the news, but I would always think [as a child] that 30, 40 or 50 was ancient anyway.

How our viewpoints change, and suddenly we are those same adults in a state of shock.
Best wishes

Mama Squirrel said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I have been thinking lately about three women I knew who each died very suddenly, and I have memories of each one that are very similar to yours. Maybe I'll be able to write about it sometime as well.

Frankie said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Life is such a precious gift and it is difficult to understand why some die so young.

Even if people aren't our best friends or family, they still touch our lives -- as your friend did. He has also touched all your reader's lives. What a lovely way to honor his time on this earth.

Very sad indeed.

Magpie Ima said...

I think it does hit harder when it's a contemporary. You wrote beautifully about him and how he was part of your life. I'm so sorry.

Amie said...

That is young. How very sad :( It sounds like he left behind many people who cared about him.

The ripple is so appropriate.

Judy Aron said...

So sorry to hear about this loss for you.
It is always a shock to our understanding of our mortality when a contemporary dies.

I know you will have fond memories to help you deal with this loss in your life. God had some sort of plan for him and part of it was for him to have you in his life in some way. He was fortunate.

By the way - you mentioned listening to holiday music - are you familiar with Handels Judeus Maccabeus? A great recording is by the English Chamber Orchestra - if you like Handel's Messiah you'll like this one. My cantor did a lovely concert of Judas Maccabeus.