I went to a wake for a friend on Sunday evening.
Dougal and I shared some intimate heart-to-hearts, but we had not seen much of each other over the last year. Still, I thought of him often, and it was a shock to hear that he had passed away from complications with the H1N1 flu just shy of his 32nd birthday.
I wish I knew what to say about it. I usually have so much to say about everything, but not with regard to this.
Death is so entangled with every other part of life for me, especially during this frozen pocket of dark days in December, and it feels as though all of the threads of this story are buried too deep in the fabric's pile.
The pub, a favourite of Dougal's, proffered up a bottle of Jameson's irish whiskey and glasses filled with cigarettes of his brand. We took turns standing together and telling stories about him: his fierce sense of adventure, his search to belong, his generous spirit.
It made me think about how we narrate the stories that once belonged to the dead, how we lift them up and make them shine brighter, if somewhat artificially, for a while. We tell ourselves that we can be greater, are greater, which is both true and untrue.
I wondered how my story would be narrated one day. The hope is that I will be old enough to have few people left who could speak of me like that. It makes me uncomfortable to hear my adventures recounted by other people. I am very territorial about my place in time.
By the end of the evening, I knew a different Dougal than the one who so needed to tell me his secrets. There were photographs of a Dougal that others there had known since childhood. There were stories that surprised me with his courage.
He has been gifted with freedom from a body that had not served him well in some time, and I wish him well.
We'll keep a spot open for you on the pub's patio come summer, Dougal. Cheers.