A Friend

He was my friend.  We’d spend hours tucked away in one of our offices talking about philosophy, and literature, and classes, and friendship, and art, and film, and our personal histories, about family and friends, and life, and death. He was much older, so of course we’d also talk about how to submit grades without having to print them off first, and how to increase the font size on his computer.

Recently I was asked to say a few words about him, but I didn’t know what to say because I don’t know that he would want anything we shared behind closed doors to be discussed in the open.  And so I thought of a method that I think he would approve of…quotes and anecdotes!

When I first heard that he died, I was kind of devastated, it was early in the pandemic, and my only means by which to connect to others affected by our loss was to comment on the funeral-home web-site.  There were so many beautiful sentiments on there, but for some reason I was agitated that none of them really captured who he was. I tried to put up a couple quotes that we would exchange on a regular basis, but apparently they were too much and thus censured and taken down. 

I couldn’t have hoped for anything more, I can just imagine how funny he would have thought that was.

So, with that, I want to share 5 quotes that I think he would have approved of and appreciated. 

“Sing to me of the man Muse, the man of twists and turns.” 

The opening line of the Odyssey. Like Odysseus, our journey’s are aloft with unforeseen twists and turns.  We aren’t born to be the person that we become.  We are made into who we are, specifically because of the twists and turns.  

“Death. The certain prospect of death could sweeten every life with a precious and fragrant drop of levity- and now you strange apothecary souls have turned it into an ill-tasting drop of poison that makes the whole of life repulsive.” – Nietzsche  

I have this idyllic image of my friend pushing his cart of VHS tapes, lecture notes, and a dozen fresh roses to class each day. Those roses are legendary, and with that legend comes a lesson that death isn’t something we should be afraid of, or something we should struggle with.  Death is a gift that makes life worth living.  It is because of death that life has value.  A perfect plastic rose among any real rose will always be a fraud.  As my friend taught so many, it’s not the beauty that creates the value.  It’s the value that creates the beauty.  Mortality provides value, and that’s what makes us beautiful, death is what makes our existence enviable…even to the gods.

But that doesn’t mean we should be quick to embrace that source of value.  Several times we spoke about Dylan Thomas’ poem Do not go gentle into that goodnight.  As Dylan Thomas wrote…

Though wise men at their end know dark is right, 

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

I can say with 100% certainty that my friend’s model for not going gentle was Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.  Which leads me to my next quote and anecdote.  We walked to his final division meeting together, and on the way he just started banishing random people.  Some random student walking down the hall said “hello Sir” to which he replied “I banish you”, the look of confusion took hold of this student’s face as we walked away.  This happened to a couple more people.  Then on the way back after the meeting we bumped into two colleagues having a conversation in the stairwell.  “Hello guys”… they greeted us, and in return they were greeted in the most cheerful voice, “you’re banished, and you’re banished”, we just kept walking with no further comment or context.

I asked him what was going on and he just reminded me of the scene in Coriolanus where Coriolanus is being banished, and in turn he just banishes the entire population of Rome.

If you’ve never banished some random person for no reason, I strongly recommend it.  It’s kind of refreshing. 

Since that day I banish nearly half the population of Trader Joe’s every time I go. 

My friend understood death as well as anyone could, but what made him special is that he also understood life.

There was a small group of professors hanging out in our office suite a few years ago, it was the late afternoon, and we were all a little punch drunk, and annoying, and louder than we needed to be, and we disturbed some of our colleagues, and maybe we got into a little bit of trouble.  To which our friend responded “life is trouble, only death is not, to be alive is to take off your pants and find trouble”  Now the original quote from Zorba The Greek is to “take off your belt and find trouble”, but “pants” was the optimal word in this situation.  Since then we’ve exchanged that quote dozens of times.  About two months prior to his passing I received a voice message from him, reminding me to find trouble.  I tried to pay that message forward on the funeral-home message board, but it was graciously deemed too offensive. (For that I will always be grateful)

Whether talking about life, or death, or anything in between, he was able to draw from a lifetime of information and experience.  He always knew the right thing to say, he had a rose for every moment, and a moment for every rose.  He loved life, and literature, and philosophy.

I miss him, and I hope these quotes do him justice.

Carrot

69 Replies to “A Friend”

  1. I had a much older friend too who I really treasured as the wisest person I knew, in that he was curious about everything, insanely independent, and would always have such unique and deeply thoughtful musings, to go with a great sense of humor. And he banished people too in his way. I think his favorite phrase was Everybody’s an asshole except for me and you, and I’m not too sure about you.
    Brings back memories because he passed about 7 years ago.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Que bonito, que sentidas palabras de condolencias para alguien muy special.
      Un fuerte abrazo !

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I recognize his gifts shared with you & that you are now better because of them. This is what the definition of “A Friend” truly is. You both are well deserving of the title. Carry on with “Good trouble” & take off da pants.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I read this very slowly savouring. Death has my attention too much this past year, and still. Your friend sounds gracious and full of life, raucous and fearless in all the best ways. I will come back to this and borrow quotes, his and yours, to continue my journey. He has given you much. Thank you for letting us share your memory of him

    Liked by 5 people

  4. What a wonderful friend to have. It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but they are never truly gone. His presence is felt right here, right now, in your wonderfully worded tribute to him. That essence never leaves us. My heart is with you in your loss of his physical presence.
    Now take off your pants and go find trouble! Banish some more denizens of Trader Joe’s! 🌹🥀
    -Star 🌟💫

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Do not go gentle into that good night. <—just read an article on this very line. Interesting.
    So sorry for your loss of such an influential person in your life. Sending a virtual hug.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. What a beautiful heart felt remembrance. My condolences for your loss and best wishes for your memories. Chris

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Heartfelt condolences. ❤️ Thank you for sharing. This is absolutely singing. You’ve brought him to life and thus brought joy and renewed life to those of us reading. Your sharing of your friend’s zesty attitude is greatly appreciated. We can all dream of living a life well enough to being remembered so skillfully and poignantly, and with a spirit of such mischievous fun and grace. And with such sensitivity for his privacy, and for the wishes of his family as well. Just wow all around.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Sorry did not see this til now – you are more than welcome. :)) You guys have a really great blog. Kudus for all the good work!

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Your friend reminds me of a song bird I read about in the book “Tuesdays with Morrie”. The bird sits on your shoulder and asks you each day “Is today the last day you live?” – a constant reminder to live each day with full vigour. Your friend was a song bird, wasn’t he? The world will surely miss him!! I am sorry for your loss..

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Such a marvelous remembering of your friend. After reading this, I feel as if I am somehow remiss, as if I had neglected getting to know someone with whom I would have resonated. But then, maybe he would have banished me. Clearly he is very much alive to you…and so, despite his passing, he is still very much alive.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Death has my attention too much this past year. Your friend sounds gracious and full of life, raucous and fearless in all the best ways. Thank you for letting us share your memory of him

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Sharing our thoughts and emotions about our loved ones can really take a bit out of us. Then again, their passing has removed (or sealed off) a piece of our hearts as well. Yet, in sharing their stories and remembrances, we find strength as we bring them back to life, so in reality they’re never gone at all. Your friend would be proud of you so, carry on, present him in his full life! 💝🪷

        Liked by 2 people

  11. What a blessing to have such a thoughtful and clever person in your life. Makes me wish i’d known him. In his memory i’ll be sure to banish somebody today. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Such a wonderful tribute. Sounds like he would have loved it. I especially liked the “banishments”, that had me laughing. Sorry for your loss. He clearly left you a wealth of memories. Stay strong.

    Pat

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I many like your beautiful blog. A pleasure to come stroll on your pages. A great discovery and a very interesting blog. I will come back to visit you. A soon.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Beautiful memories are to be treasured, and people who are dear to us who have passed on will forever remain within our hearts.

    Great share.

    Liked by 1 person

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