Happy birthday

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There’s nothing more to say.
The poem ends
Soft as it began.
I loved my friend.

~”Poem” by Langston Hughes

Yesterday, David Andrew Ellis would have been 27 years old. Who knows what else he’d have going on in his life, or if we’d even still be a part of each other’s post-college lives. I’d like to think so, but five years ago, I would’ve also thought he’d still be alive.

This year we celebrated his birthday quietly, with the traditional dinner with the usual suspects, minus a few.  I can’t lie; it was great to see everyone again.  We keep up with each other superficially on twitter, blogs, facebook, etc., but nothing compares to getting the crew back together in our old stomping grounds.

But it still doesn’t feel right.  I always dread his birthday because I never know how to acknowledge it anymore.  Do I let it go by quietly, knowing that if I don’t reach out to folks, we probably won’t get together? Do I make a fuss and chase people to make sure they show up, wondering why they don’t seem to care as much as I do about this?

My feelings about his death and how I’ve dealt with it are so complex, yet so simple, too.  I guess that’s why this poem strikes me so hard.  I’ve loved this poem since I was about 12, but I never really had a “reason” to.  I just liked the poem, and I knew it held some deep significance.  I didn’t think it would be so literal for me later in life.  It really encompasses everything I feel about Dave.  And sadly, as complex as my feelings are (in the sense of losing someone who is so important to you … knowing and processing all of the ways they are missing from your life), they’re also very simple – I just miss him like hell.

It figures that I’m thinking about this right now. A quiet Friday night that I’m spending alone on my couch, while on the computer. If he were still around, we’d probably be on AIM (or Gchat since that’s the new craze) and he’d lament my homebody nature, while still accepting it as a key part of who I am.  He teased, but never held it against me. Dave understood me in a way that few had before and who even fewer have since.  He was one of two people in life I’ve been able to completely bare my soul to without having to worry about judgment.  He knew my worst fears, my greatest motivations, and was always there to listen. I still struggle some days with wanting to dial his number, only to realize that I will only reach a number long-since disconnected.

I guess what’s so hard about celebrating his memory on his birthday is the fact that we have to acknowledge what we lost on so many levels. First, we lost him, the charismatic, dedicated, thoughtful person. But then we all lost the relationship we had.  I lost my confidant, my partner-in-crime who knew me better than I knew myself.  Finally, we lost the possibility of growing our friendships. I can’t count how often we joked about hating the prospect of full-time work as drones in the corporate machine or quietly wondered how our jaded  views on love and relationships would impact our future spouse and children.  Life will always have “what-ifs,” but it’s harder to stomach when you know with certainty the people you’d want around most will never be there to share.


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