Saturday, February 12, 2005

Funerals and Adulthood, (College Buddy, part 3)

College Buddy, part 1
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (College Buddy, part 2)

I have been looking back at my life and my old college buddy, Tony, keeps coming to mind. He was one of those friends that you make perhaps only in college when you are idealistic and philosophical and optimistic all at the same time. And Tony was the one that brought me to a real level of maturity not because of anything he said or did, but because he died when I had prayed so hard that he wouldn't. His leaving me, a good and devoted friend who had sat by his bedside almost daily for well over a year, crashed hard into my belief that if I loved him enough, shared my faith in Christ enough, and brightened his days enough, he would live through the lymphoma which took him at the age of 21.

He had some twitty girlfriend whose name I can't recall who visited him in the hospital once or twice to chat about her tap dance lessons and annoy him with her inanity before dumping him. I remember telling our friends that she was just his girlfriend, but we really loved him and would stand by his side. It was part edict and part prophecy. Girlfriends in college are transitory-friendship is not. So I would bring him gifts-a stuffed Snuffleupagus, a jar of sand from a trip to the beach, a gospel of John to let him know that I loved him. I would talk to his mom and his step-dad who had moved up to New York to see him through the crazy experimental oncology treatments that he was receiving. They were both Catholics, and we all relied heavily on our faith to get us through. I was particularly fond of his step-dad, Pat, a sweet and gentle man, and I knew that I held a special place in his heart because of my devotion to Christ and to Tony.

The day that he died I called his hospital room from work to tell him that I was on my way to see him, and his sister answered. She was crying and told me that he was gone...that his heart had just stopped. Just stopped. The cancer hadn't killed him finally, it was the treatments. I told my boss that he had died and began to weep. I walked home probably twenty blocks weeping loud and unashamed. Even hardened New Yorkers turned to look at me as I walked. One man asked if he could do anything for me and I said, no, no one could do anything for me. I don't remember when I stopped crying and it was days before I could sleep. I remember wondering if God had mercy on his soul, because as far as I knew, Tony had wanted no part of any God who would let someone so young and promising suffer so cruelly.

I also remember the day of the funeral...taking the train with my roommate who wanted to be the next Oprah, to meet our other friends the soon-to-be rabbi and the Jewish comedy writer. We met up with our other friend with the silly name who had accidentally dated a transvestite while backpacking through Europe. It was all so bizarre.

We all milled about in the lobby of the funeral home, shell-shocked and awkward. I decided to take charge and lead everyone into the room with the casket. There were flowers strewn across it and the words, "Beloved Ton" on top. All I knew was that I need to face the finality of it all. As I got close to the casket, my knees buckled and I nearly fell to the ground wailing out loud. My funny-named friend, grabbed my arm and helped me walk away.

The next few weeks were a blur of tears, headaches and angry prayers. I decided to leave NYC and move to Dublin with a student work visa. My roommate was mad that I was cutting out early on the lease, and a man from church that I had casually dated suddenly decided that I was the most interesting girl he had ever seen. I left them both without a regret because I needed to escape the pace of the Manhattan and find a place to start over fresh. I was neither going to become a great actress nor was I going to be the savior of my good friend's soul or life. I was empty and deeply sad, and I left.

It was a good decision.

Micah Girl

Click below for parts one and two of this memory...
College Buddy, part 1
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (College Buddy, part 2)

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