Friday, December 23, 2016

Preoccupation with Don Strong

Silent tears have been leaking from the corners of my eyes throughout the early morning hours as I awaken to the dismal prospect that my best friend may actually succumb to the painful grip of cancer destroying his body. The recognition of that possibility had eluded me as I sought to buoy his and my spirits, when fear arose in both of us. Not wanting to jinx the results with even thinking about a negative outcome I sought to focus on the elimination of the relentless pain that subsumed his consciousness and failed his physical capacities, always hoping for prolonged moments when it ceased, even for seconds.

He just called to let me know how he was doing, reaching out to make contact before leaving for the early morning surgery at the hospital. With a forced smile on my face and tears rolling down my eyes I face the reality that this might be the last time I speak to him. The deadening silence of a loved ones voice is the hardest thing we live with. It amazes me how people who are suffering the most are so quick to relieve you of your pain through humor or gestures of accommodation to soften the impact on you. The valiant soothing of the stress they know you must be going through too is one of the herculean gifts the frail and dying can muster to make it easier for you. Even if that person wasn't generous in their lifetimes somehow this generosity of spirit arises like steam on a wintry day melting away fears and calming the deep waters of loss.

The tragedy of the moment is further heightened by the thousands of miles we are separated by, in land and water and cultures, because I happen to be on the other side of the planet, trying to hold the hand of the voice that wakes me with a start each day. The fact that we have rarely been in one another's presence for years only intensifies the friendship, because it was not predicated on the things that most friends do together. Our memories of actual time together are few relatively but the hours on the phone seemed to fill in those gaps sufficiently for us. However, I promise to change that paradigm and visit with him in DC more often.

Becoming instant friends when meeting at Two Steps Down a popular restaurant and bar in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn in June of 1986, where we were neighbors for several years, we immediately took to making sure we connected each day to share the most useless information about our days. Changes in his career had him move to different states before finally settling in DC. When I said to him upon his move in 1989 that I suspected I would never hear from him again, he boldly retorted, "That's a damn lie!" And he was right.

Intense prayer and waiting will make up most of my day today however, as others note my preoccupation.

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