Here’s why I haven’t told you much about what I’m working on. I didn’t tell you why because I really wasn’t ready to talk about it. But now, after spending a long day away yesterday, I can tell you.
Yesterday was the memorial service for my friend Chris. He and I had been friends a very long time. We lived in different places most of that time, and he was often far, far away in harm’s way, but we managed to stay in touch. We both knew the other was always where we could be in touch if needed. But for the last two years, Chris battled cancer and two weeks ago, he finally lost the fight.
We started out the day at the National Cemetery in Springfield. There was a brief military service for him there, which to me is the very hardest kind. I made it through the gun salute, even through Taps. I was even okay when the flag was presented. But when Chris’s team leader presented his medals to his daughter, I struggled.
Afterwards we went to the stables owned by Chris’s girlfriend and were able to just hang out and talk with each other. For nearly all of us, it was uncanny to feel as if we knew everybody there because he spoke so often of all of his friends to the others, even though those friendships rarely mixed. Chris’s sister, Mary, said it well, “Each of you here was hand-picked to be Chris’s friend.” And you know, she was right. Even though we all knew him in different capacities, we all knew that he had chosen each one of us to be his friend. And we all knew the very same man.
When one person talked about what a hard worker he was, we all knew exactly what they meant. When another laughed at how methodical he could be, every person there agreed. When another made fun of his love of fine clothes, we all laughed. (I honestly believe that I created that particular monster, since I was the first to introduce him to bespoke suits, but hey.) And each of us agreed that we were very lucky indeed to be counted as his friend.
Chris was an “all in” kind of guy. If you were his friend, that was it. If you weren’t his friend, you had little importance. He was not rude, just indifferent. But each and every one of us there knew what it meant to have been loved by this man. We may have nothing else in common but that one thing. And that’s a powerful thing indeed.
So, I’ve been trying to make sense of his death. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that this man let nothing in Heaven or Hell stop him when he set out to win, but he could fight no more.
I’ve been brooding over the quilt I want to make to honor his life. It’s been a challenge for me, knowing that I’ll never ever answer my phone again to hear his voice, wondering how this could possibly ever have happened. It is still very fresh. But I will keep working on the quilt, I have to, to honor my friend.
So now you know what I’m working on and why it’s hard. I want to do it justice. Chris was a fine soldier, a fierce warrior, a sweet son, a protective brother, a very proud dad, and a steadfast friend. I, like everyone there today, am so much richer for having had him in my life.