Granted, I do not pay Death the respect that He perhaps deserves and that perhaps I should; irreverent is probably the right word. Mea culpa.
Here’s a brief, but very true and somewhat confounding (to me) illustration of this irreverence. And yes, it’s sad as well, I’ll acknowledge that.
It concerns a friend. Let’s call him Joe. He did exist, Joe did, though that was not Joe’s name. Joe and I were business partners. Actually, associates would be a better description since it really was Joe’s business; I worked for him and with him.
Joe was almost always late for our appointments. In fact, I could count on him being up to an hour late for anything, and eventually planned accordingly. That worked just fine, except when I had other things planned that were time sensitive.
We had, for reasons I won’t elaborate on here, a somewhat competitive relationship, peppered with a healthy dose of one-upmanship. This was mostly in good fun, but with an undertow with teeth. Never to the point of severing, or even threatening our relationship, but our informal, unstated little war always simmered, sometimes close to the surface, sometimes not.
We were partners for a decade and change. It was beneficial for both of us. We both were good at what we did. So, we did well; financially and otherwise. Eventually, I left town and turned my functions over to someone else, and that’s where Joe and I more or less lost contact. We exchanged the occasional email, but that was it.
The last time I saw Joe was over a Christmas Holiday some years back when I was back in town to visit relatives. We ran into each other in the supermarket. Glad to see each other, genuinely. Though we didn’t promise to stay in better contact. Both too honest for that, I think.
Joe died the following spring. Completely out of the blue. He was ten years younger than me, so he should have lasted at least another fifty or so years. But he died in his sleep. Just like that.
I found this out from an email sent by one of his business associates regarding Joe’s funeral. I didn’t understand, and didn’t understand, and then, finally, I understood. Joe had died. Actually died.
My next thought—that knee-jerk reaction thought that you don’t plan but simply step out of the way of, was, I kid you not: “Well, if Joe can do it. Dying can’t be that hard.”
Yes, probably quite inappropriate, but at the same time (and to this day), oddly comforting. For the thought still stands: If Joe can do it, then it can’t be that hard.