Monday, April 15, 2013

A Eulogy

Yesterday, April 14, 2013, a dear friend of mine passed away. I learned later that there would be no funeral or memorial for him. This is outside my experience and I feel at a flailing loss. I feel an intense need to do something, anything. Below is what I would say about him if there were a funeral and I were asked to speak. 

I have, literally, known Noah for longer than anyone I am not related to. We have been friends since I was thirteen - 21 years. I could tell you stories about Noah. I could tell you about the time he nearly broke my wrist playing Egyptian Rat Screw. About the time he threw the dice when we were playing Risk and we lost one and couldn't finish the game. I could tell you about the time he drove all the way to the Kings Island exit because he wouldn't believe that I was right about the location of Riverbend. I could tell you about the time he swore he'd never speak to me again over Eric Clapton. Or when he nearly killed on of my ex-boyfriends for calling me a name.

They are funny stories. Stories that maybe should be written or told. Stories that not only make me laugh now, but also wrap up neatly who Noah was at his core: determined (or stubborn), passionate (or temperamental), and fiercely protective. He was a fighter, never failing to stand up for his friends, his opinions or his beliefs.

But telling those stories would betray what was at the heart of our friendship. Noah and I talked. Not all the time, we'd sometimes go months or on a couple of occasions, years, between our conversations, but when we talked, we talked for hours, deeply and without reservation. I had no secrets from Noah, because I'd eventually tell him everything. It's possible that he knew me better than anyone else.

We would talk about anything and everything, laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling. Sometimes well into the night. For years, I would come home from work some days to find that he had broken into my house and was just waiting for me to get home so we could play cards and talk.

Noah was there the night after my son died. He was there the day my daughter was born. He was there when I walked down the aisle, and in a different sort of way, he was there when I backed apprehensively away from my marriage.

Noah was a constant presence. Even when he was out of sight, he was always there. Today is the first day since I was an awkward, shy eighth grade girl that I have woken up to a world without Noah. I'm not sure that I'll ever become accustomed to it. I cannot understand why the rest of the world isn't reacting somehow to the hole he left behind.

In the end, he was angry with me. Angry because I called him out and angry because I wasn't as strong as he wanted me to be. He wanted me to be perfect, to prove to him that it could be done. I failed him and even though I know that there was nothing else I could do, I have had as difficult a time forgiving myself as he has had. The day before he left us, though, we talked like it had never happened. Because in many ways, it hadn't. At the end of the day, there was nothing left to say. We were who we always were.

In the end, the only thing left to be angry about is that he left us.


Lisa said...

I'm so sad there will be no real "goodbye" for him. Thank you for writing this. He meant a lot to me. I don't know if i could put it in words. But I'm very grateful that you did.

Suze said...

I didn't know him very well, but for a while he and my brother were good friends.
I'm so sorry to hear about this.


Two Mama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Two Mama said...

You have always had a way with words, and I think Noah would be pleased with the way you have told this part of his story.
I agree, it seems strange that his friends will not have a chance to say their good byes, that they will not have the chance to share their many stories about Noah. But you have opened up the door for that to happen, and maybe, sometime in the future, you will all come together and pay tribute to the life Noah shared with so many.
Every life is a gift, and every life is worth remembering. <3

canadahauntsme said...

Jessi, I've never posted on your blog, but I really feel compelled to do so now. I was good friends with Noah in high school and at UK, and we used to spend a lot of time talking very late at night (and well past dawn). After I moved out of Kentucky to start graduate school we drifted apart, primarily because I pushed him away. He and some friends drove from Lexington to visit me here in Virginia my first year and I was very grateful for their friendship, but soon after I started to break contact with him and I'm really not sure why. Maybe I was uncomfortable with his choices of relationships (certain ones that I strongly disagreed with), but one thing about him that I will never forget is his loyalty to his friends. I think maybe I hurt him by distancing myself from him. It's something I've always regretted and think about occasionally as I did yesterday; during a long drive back from Asheville, NC I literally started thinking "I wonder how Noah is doing these days." Of all the people I have known, none have been quite as strong-minded and infuriating. Yet in the thick of it, I know he would have defended any of his friends with his life without blinking.

If you recall in high school a group of us created a literary "magazine" called W.H.Y. (we hear you). We were all around 16 or 17 and, well, the poetry is pretty banal but it was fun to make. A couple of weeks ago I was cleaning out some old boxes of photographs and found an old copy of one. It's been sitting in my living room ready for me to throw it out, but call it kismet that I haven't yet. Noah had four entries, all signed "Mad Hatter." This one is my favorite.

Metal Winged Birdie
(Shit Shit Shit)

While I walked through the woods
I noticed something strange.
A golden bird
with large metal wings
prancing on a limb
tweeting a soft melody.
Slowly, but every so slowly
I walked toward the odd looking beast.

Then it shit on me.

--Mad Hatter

Jessi said...

Everybody - Thank you all so much for your kind words.

CHM - I think that all of us who really cared for him distanced ourselves some from him. It was too hard to watch him hurt himself. I wanted so badly for him to get everything together, but sometimes, I guess that doesn't happen. Thank you for sharing his poem. I always loved Noah's poetry, beautiful and ridiculous. Just like him.