Wednesday before last, June 1, I flew into KCI airport, rented a car, and drove down to the Ozarks to visit the ConductMom. As I’ve been doing for a few summers now, I would spend a few days with her, and then go to Kansas City to catch up with friends for another few days. I was planning to drive to KC on Sunday morning, and my first order of business was a brunch date with J., one of my oldest friends from high school, and his partner, W.
On Friday night I got a call that W. had died in his sleep.
He was 42.
I’d only met W. once, last summer. He was honest and immediate and complicated, and we became friends instantly. This is rare for me; I’m a slow-to-warm-up baby. W. is one of the few people who broke through reserve that in one go. Both he and J. are great science-fiction buffs, and I’d urged them to consider coming out for Readercon some August in the not-too-distant-future.
I stayed with J. for a night, and was able to attend both the viewing and the funeral for W. There are many stories to tell from the past week, but they belong to others, not to me. I will say that the funeral was one of those rare services that does what a religious service is supposed to do: W.’s life was celebrated, his death was mourned, his values were lifted up, and I truly believe that everyone present left that day with a commitment to be a better person.
For myself, that commitment is grappling with a profound exhaustion in order to find expression. At the moment, I am left with the strong belief that the only things that matter in the world are simple pleasures, and the kindnesses that we can do for one another. Horizons may broaden in the future, but for now, this is enough.
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