I am in one of those seasons that many of us who are three score years old have to deal with. More and more of our friends and loved ones are dying, like leaves dropping from trees in a fall wind.
Recently, I lost two good friends within six days. There was a third person I have known for many years. She passed away last week.
When friends die who were married, your heart pains for the spouses and the children. You can only imagine their emotions.
But there is a selfish part, too. You feel a personal loss. What is it going to be like for me to overcome their deaths? Why did this have to happen to my relatives and my friends?
While the friend may not have been in your life every day, and you might not have talked to them often, their spirit was with you. Just a few words from them now and then had somehow become vital to your overall happiness. It’s like your favorite food dish. If just one ingredient is missing, you tend to notice it.
I will miss Denise because she was hilarious and caring. She didn’t hold back often on her comments. What came up came out. I met her through her husband, Jim, a former coworker and supervisor. They both accepted me so early in my career.
It is important here that I mention that Denise and Jim are white. When I came to the State-Times newspaper, the former sister paper to The Advocate, many, many years ago, I was the only African-American full-time reporter in the newsroom.
But Jim and I became friends, and Denise was right there. Denise made you laugh because she would often say or ask stuff, very innocently, that could be a little off-putting. Jim would say “Denise,” and she would start the next sentence with “But, Jim. . ."
When my son was about a year old, we had that day set aside for my parents to come by. Jim and Denise showed up unannounced. And, there they are, especially Denise, on family photos having a great time. Now, that was funny.
Denise was just a great spirit. She will be missed.
I met Brien about six or seven years ago. He was part of a football tailgate group that my wife and I joined. He and the others immediately accepted us. During the Southern University football season, we would chat about everything, our jobs, our families and so on. But more than anything, Brien could make me laugh.
There were serious moments we talked about football, the university and where we were headed in life. Brien was older and always had good ideas. I listened to his wisdom.
Sometimes we would talk about our childhoods or how we cooked certain items, or we complained together about our beloved SU Jaguars. But, more than anything he and his wife, Lola, and their adult children were fun and loved to be around each other.
I will miss him and his fried fish dearly this year. There will definitely be a void both in our group and a gaping hole in my heart.
Earlier this week, I was sitting with a few of my high school classmates talking about Maureen, the sister of one of our classmates who had died the prior day. Maureen was an incredible singer, mother and an even better person. I’ve known her husband Charles forever.
She was just a good person, we agreed. And, then several talked about the number of people we know who had died over the past several months.
A member of the group mentioned: “You know we are at that age when we are going to see a lot of that. We have to expect it.” We shrugged in agreement, but we didn’t like it.
To that end, I have recently become accustomed to responding to the greeting, “How are you doing?” with “If you are seeing me, then I’m fine. If you are viewing me, then there might be some problems.” Then there is usually a laugh or smile from the recipient. I never would have used that gallows humor 10 or even five years ago. I think I’m going to ditch that response.
Interestingly, about two years ago or so, I attended around 30 funerals of relatives, friends and associates in a single year. Luckily, I have not been part of anything like that since.
But my spirit was buoyed this week by pictures sent to me of my two newest granddaughters — one born a month ago, the other a little over a year also. I take heart in their youth and their potential. Their approving faces are a blessing.
For now, though, I will grieve for my friends, but I will smile too, because of what they have added to my life.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at email@example.com.