My friend is dying.
It’s stage 4 and spreading. My friend has more bad days than good ones now. Eating is a problem. Showering is a problem. Steps are a big problem.
My friend reminds me to kiss my children, eat good food, drink good alcohol, go to concerts and sing and dance and laugh, laugh, laugh until you fall down and your chest aches and you lose your breath and you cry and you taste your tears and they’re warm and familiar and they remind you that you should laugh like this more often.
My friend grabs my arm and tells me to keep writing.
My friend winks, “Keep telling stories. People need stories.”
Then my friend tells me they’re not so much afraid of dying. They’re more afraid of going to Hell. My friend smiles and says, “Maybe when the devil is not looking I’ll slip through Purgatory’s backdoor.”
My friend then gets serious and leans into me. Almost whispering. My friend tells me they made a lot of mistakes. Real mistakes. Hurt people. The kind of mistakes you don’t really recover from.
“It’s funny, at the end of your life you think about how, if you had a chance, you would do it all so differently. But you can’t. And I think that’s what hurts the most.”
Later that night, lying in bed, I somehow remembered a sentence from Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451. A novel I read probably 10 years ago– funny how that happens.
“He was a part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped and then there was no one to do them just the way he did.”
Then I heard my dying friend laugh.
A deep, booming, infectious laugh that is pitched higher than other laughs and lingers about the room long after the joke has been made.
A laugh you secretly wished you had.
A laugh–once you heard it–you would always hear it.
Jangling with life.
PS– If you know someone who needs to be reminded of the importance of laughter feel free to share this post with them.
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