A year ago my best friend died.
He was at home in his room, playing video games. He would almost hide in his room most of the time, as he shared the house with his sister, his sister’s daughter (his niece), the niece’s two kids, and whatever person was his niece’s “friend” that week. He was no lover of chaos, so the room was his retreat.
Lest I make him sound like some kind of a loser, living with his sister, let me explain that the house was originally their parents’ home. My friend left his good paying job across the state to move in with his mother, when she could no longer quite make it living by herself, for health reasons. He found a new job in this area… but when the economy tanked, he had too little time on that job to survive the cutbacks. So while taking care of his mother, he worked what jobs he could. It was hard on him, and I had to help him out with short term loans at times — which I didn’t mind a bit, because he’d helped me in the same way earlier when I was between jobs.
But his mother died. So then his sister moved in, as they figured together they could pay the bills on her salary while he did the upkeep on the house. He’d given up finding work in his field, as 50+ year old electrical engineers aren’t really in demand these days.
So he was in his room, playing video games… and he had a massive heart attack. Apparently it was as close to instant as it gets, because no one else in the house heard a thing. They only found him hours later, when they went to tell him dinner was ready.
I didn’t find out for a week, as he kept all that kind of thing (people’s phone numbers, etc.) on his computer, and they didn’t know the password. I called him later on the weekend… and they told me what happened.
They cremated him. He was interred at a military base three hours drive away, three months later; he was ex-military (but forced out before he qualified for a pension, of course), and it takes a while for them to get around to letting you bury someone on a military base.
I didn’t go to the… interment ceremony, or whatever it is properly called. I told his sister that I was going to be out of state that week.
I was going to be out of state, yes, but not that week. I just wasn’t sure I was going to be all that welcome there, by the rest of his family, and I wasn’t at all sure I could drive three hours there and back without my emotions causing me to wreck the damn car.
Besides, my friend was anti-religious, and regarded such ceremonies as useless. He wouldn’t have gone to mine, which I know is true because he told me once he wouldn’t, as there was no point. Under the circumstances, I don’t think he’d give a damn that I wasn’t there.
I think it may have made his sister a bit sadder, my not being there; for that I am sorry. See, I was almost the only friend he had.
He was the only friend I had.
He and I had so many experiences in common, especially from our childhoods, that we’d joke that I was living his life on repeat, but with a ten year delay. What made it funnier is that we hadn’t even met until about, oh, fifteen years ago now.
But I really don’t want to die in nine years.
Not that I’m all that fond of existence, mind you. As long as I outlive my parents, so that they don’t have to bury me (which would destroy them), then I can go ahead and go. I have neither wife nor kids, nor will I ever, so no one is depending on me.
My friend felt pretty much the same way.
I sure miss him, though.