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It’s all a Party.

January 11, 2015

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Yesterday I celebrated the life of a man I didn’t know very well. He attended my church, and he let me pile in the van with his family every now and then when I needed a ride home. He knew every street in the city, all the best places–and most of the worst.

Today I celebrated the life of a man I don’t know very well. He’s a friend of a friend, someone I’ve known for many years but mostly in the context of midnight movies on opening night, and our mutual friend’s parties.

So what’s the difference? The first one, “J,” is dead. The second one, “A,” just celebrated another anniversary of his birth.

This is not the first time I have celebrated birth and death so close to one another.

“Celebrate death?” you may ask. “Why on earth would you celebrate death? Did you hate him?”

No, not at all! But here’s the thing: J had been fighting illnesses, the loss of both his legs, and several other hardships. Throughout it all, he kept up his appetite for life. Throughout it all, I saw the devotion he had for his friends and family. Throughout it all, he knew that when he was done with this world, another (better) one would be waiting for him.

So we celebrated. We celebrated the man he was, the man we met way back forever ago. We wore Cubs colors because that’s what he would have wanted. And we shared stories of happy times. Because that’s what he would have wanted.

And now I am in the suburbs, celebrating A. Even though we don’t know each other exceedingly well, we appreciate each other’s sense of humor, and he has been a boon in these last few months as I have languished under the grief known only to a single girl who wants desperately to love and be loved (but that is for another post), for he has told me time and again to set my standards high and refuse to settle.

I have appreciated his advice, his humor, and his willingness to listen. Throughout it all, I have seen his appetite for life. Throughout it all, I have learned about his devotion to his friends and his wife. So here I am, after taking a train I’ve never been on to a town I’ve never heard of, to have dinner with him, his wife, and his friends. Because that’s what he wanted.

These two men could not be any more different–and yet, and yet in some very important ways they are both the same.

They love, and are loved. They live life to the fullest. They think of others, but they are true to themselves. They are quick to laugh, and if you find yourself in their circle of trust, you will experience a loyalty most people do not know.

And when it is time to celebrate them, you show up. Because you know they would be there for you.

While yesterday’s celebration was perhaps a (tiny) bit more subdued than tonight’s was (although they were both pretty chill), both of these parties are in honor of a man I am glad to have met. Both of them include people I haven’t seen in months or even years. And both of them celebrate life. And love. And friendship. And those are the best kind of all.

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