On this exact day last year, I drove to St. Johns to help my friend Caleb and his family pack up their house and load it into a moving truck. They just bought a dream home in town and were so looking forward to the move and the life change. I finally carved out a day to help him. Danielle and I drove out and started loading things onto the truck. Honestly, I wasn't much help on the heavy stuff due to my severe obesity. But I packed plenty of boxes and loaded as much as I could in the time we had. Danielle helped Caleb empty out his upstairs closet that was full of posters, nerdy movie stuff and a very heavy set of furniture. We did all of this for a few hours, stopping for breaks in-between. At one point Caleb and I took in some drinks and a smoke by the truck. We talked about future horror show plans, the drive inn trip to Indiana we already bought tickets for, work, our co-workers, etc. he kept thanking me repeatedly for us coming out to help them move. I kept apologizing that we couldn't help more. At one point he gave me a hug... something I don't do with many people. I got a space thing. After we did our duty, we got into our car and drove home. I waved to Caleb and his family as we pulled out of the driveway. His big bright smile was shining back at us through the exhaustion and sweat of that hot day. We pulled onto the road, I waved one last time and we drove home. Had I known it was the last time I would ever see him, I would have burned it more into my memory.
Because one week later, Caleb was gone.
Its hard to imagine that it has been a year since all this happened. It feels like yesterday. Sometimes it feels like it was all a dream and he is just on vacation from work. And Monday morning I'm going to walk into our office and see his smile again. Sometimes its like he never left. Like he's just off at the bathroom or at one of the presses for a few minutes and he'll be right back. Every day he gets brought up. We re-tell the same stories and the laughs get bigger and bigger. He lives. He lives.
Ive been privileged to work with some great people in various jobs in my life. Most of whom have become life long friends. When I started at my day job two years ago, I was in a different place in my life. I was going through so much transition. All I wanted was a new home, fresh start and a sense of purpose and pride in a day job again. And I found all of that in this place. Immediately this guy in the cubicle over from mine named Caleb invited me to his Halloween party. Then he invited me to horror shows with his wife and friends. The door was opened wide for me to belong... it felt so good to be respected, useful in a job and treated like an equal again. Seems to be rare in a job anymore. I made friends with all my co-workers. And when Caleb was gone, we all felt it. He wasn't just a co-worker. He was family. Just a unique soul who we were all honored to have known. Many people I work with had worked with him for well over a decade before I came along. I only knew the man 11 months. And I know how I feel about him and what happened. In that case, I cannot imagine how they feel. They have many more years of memories and stories about him. They tell them to me and I just picture all of it happening as if I was there.
When you work somewhere, and its a good job, you all become like soldiers fighting the good fight.. to get the job done. If you're lucky, you can make a friend or two. And in those rare instances, you can become like family. We all got close after Caleb was gone. We all hang out when we can. We bullshit about movies and video games. Some there are suffering their own losses and health issues and we all reach out and care for each other. And we know if Caleb were still here he'd be doing the same thing. We want to be as good a person as he was to us.
Bad things happen. And it sucks when it does. Sucks.... With a capital SUCKS. But we cannot let the tragedy define who they were and how we feel about it. It cannot be their story. Instead we are thankful for what memories we do have of them. And also, how we can better ourselves by thinking about them and how we can reflect who they were and HOW they were in our own lives. That is how you keep them alive.
My co-worker reached out to me last night via text and said this: "He is with us and know that I am here for you." It means a lot to me to be in a place with such great people. And to know that a good man who had a good heart reflected on so many strangers, that they became friends and family. He lives. He lives.
This week: I'm taking his wife to go see Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. One of the last things I saw Caleb doing graphic design on at work was a French Pink Floyd release. He changed his desktop to be a Pink Floyd picture. He jammed on rare Floyd tracks and we talked all about my love of the band that week. I'll be thinking of that this week when we go. I'm going with two of my co-workers who have become my friends. I am going with my girlfriend, who helped me through the pain of losing him. And of course, his loving wife. Showing her a good time on this difficult week.
We rage on. The music plays on. He lives on!
The thoughts I leave you with are this: You never know what tomorrow will bring. So take the pictures. Make with the hugs. Tell those around you how much you do care. Because in a flash, it could be gone.
We live on and take our loved ones with us. It is our honor to have known them and it is our honor to carry them with us... until we meet again.
You never know...
|Always going to miss my friend and I think about him everyday. Until we meet again...|