The passing on of an old and cherished friend is always a bittersweet moment in life; the sadness of your loss seems to be all encompassing, yet memories are stirred of the good times spent together, memories of times shared that can’t help but put a smile on your face. In time those pleasant memories, you hope, will break through to replace your feelings of loss; you’ll always miss him, but, slowly, why you miss him will become more vivid than the loss itself. This week I suffered such a loss. And though my grief is great, and my loss still fresh, already the years we spent together and the good times we shared are what spring to mind when I think of him.
I picked up Hurley during a weekend trip to San Francisco years and years ago. I’d like to tell you it was love at first sight, but the truth is it was more a case of settling. He didn’t make my heart start beating faster, there was no instantaneous spark that signaled he was the one. It was more of an, “Eh, as long as I’m here, why not?” Whodathunk ours would become a close relationship that would last over a decade? But that’s the thing about those with whom you form close relationships. They grow on you. If you are lucky some end up fitting your life like a second skin. They become such a integral part of your being that you can’t picture life without them. Until they are gone. And then you miss them. Greatly.
It was later that week the first time we went out together. The Xmas holiday season, which in California can still mean quite pleasant weather, is always a busy time of getting together with friends, both new and old. Hurley often joined me at the holiday parties that year, and while I’d also like to tell you how impressed my friends were with him, for the most part he went unnoticed and unremarked upon. Though I do recall someone, pleased to see the most recent change in my life, muttering, “It’s about time.” But it wasn’t long before us showing up together became the norm. Hurley quickly became part of my life. It wasn’t that we were inseparable, but seldom a week passed that we didn’t go out to paint the town together.
It has become common when celebrating someone’s life at the time of their passing to share stories of the times you spent together. That’s difficult with Hurley because there were so many. Whether it was a day’s outing – either visiting somewhere special or just an excuse to be out in the sun – a night spent at home cuddled up watching the latest blockbuster movie dvd release, or even just a quick trip to the grocery store, Hurley was often part of those times. And we travelled the world together too. So much so that it is difficult to remember which holidays he joined me on and which he stayed at home while I flew off to some exotic locale. But going through photos of those trips it’s surprising how often we’re pictured together.
You seldom notice changes in those friends you see all the time. Someone you see only once every few months you may recognizee a change in almost immediately, without thinking exclaim, “God you are getting fat!” and then consider your inability to think before speaking may be why you see those people so seldom. When your relationship spans years too, gradual changes, like getting old, just don’t make much of a blip on your radar. So it was with Hurley. And, we were after all, aging together.
That’s my only excuse for having not noticed how tired looking he’d become of late. I’d like to think that if I had noticed, if I had picked up on the small but telling tears in the fabric of his life, how frayed he’d become, I might have treated him a bit differently over the last few months. Perhaps I may have been a bit more gentle, a bit less demanding in our going out together so often. Not that I hold myself responsible for his failing health. Or think that I could possibly have done anything differently to extend his time on earth. But I do believe that had I known how little time was left to enjoy his companionship I may have appreciated and cherished those times just a bit more.
Hurley’s end came quickly, a blessing some would say. There was little time to prepare for the day when he’d no longer be there, no time to plan for the end, no opportunity to stop and fully enjoy our remaining time together. Life went on even though for one of us that life would be shortened much too soon.
There are great friendships that have been written about – David & Jonathan, Alfred Tennyson and Arthur Hallam, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Han Solo and Chewbacca, Cheech & Chong – all pale in comparison to what Hurley and I shared. The relationship too between a boy and his dog is often celebrated and speaks to a deep bond of companionship, a union of souls that transcends the norm, much as Hurley and my relationship did. But as unheralded as the connection between a man and his favorite T shirt may be, it is a bond that is just as deep, a friendship just as great. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust rag, I’ll miss Hurley. Life without him just won’t be the same now that he has moved on to the great spin cycle in the sky. But he will live on in my heart and in my mind forever.
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