Regular readers to this blog know that I recently lost a very good friend to cancer. Yesterday I was handed another reminder of just how short life is. It was my niece's first communion party. My brother had told me about a year ago that his good friend JA has cancer, pancreatic cancer no less. Devastating news. JA is literally the only friend of my brothers that I ever liked. Ever.
Bro is 8 years older than me, and so we never really hung out in the same crowd. He didn't approve of things I did and in general he always acted more like a father than a brother. But JA is cool. He's a super nice guy and he always had my back where bro was concerned. I remember when I was just out of high school and between jobs. Bro got into a pretty serious accident. He was working landscaping at the time and was on a tractor when his shoelace got caught on the gas peddle. He couldn't get it out and was thrown from the tractor with his foot still attached to the gas peddle. The tractor dragged him for a bit, tearing his shirt off and then most of the skin off his back. It was horrible! His back was completely raw. He came back home to stay with us while he was recuperating. My mom was too nervous to do the things that needed to be done for him, like change his dressing several times a day and clean his wounds, so I did it. I took care of him for several weeks while he recovered. I didn't do much of anything else. And then JA came over to see him. JA took me into the kitchen and said, "go... go out. Do something else, I'll stay with him." A much needed break that he knew I needed, and I went. And I never forgot it. A bond was formed that day. From then on he was my friend too. JA is someone I love.
When he got married it was like he was my kindred spirit. Married on Halloween, he and his wife had a costume wedding and he was Frankenstein and she was Bride of Frankenstein. I think those who know me know how I feel about that! It was awesome!
In the best of times, or the worst of times, JA was always there. When my brothers friends were calling me a freak and asking bro why I looked the way I looked, JA had my back again. He stood up for me with the closed minded.
And now, on the occasion of my niece's first communion party, bro told me JA would be there. My niece is his goddaughter after all. But he wanted me to know that JA looks drastically different. Both bro and sis in law let me know that he is almost unrecognizable. And I thank them both for preparing me. Because I don't think I would have been prepared for what I saw when JA came in. He had aged a lot and was so painfully thin it's hard to even imagine, let alone see him. It has been less than a year since I last saw him and it seems like way longer. He was still the same JA as always though, even given this dreaded illness that he is trying to fight. I tried hard not to talk about that, when you're going through it, do you really want to keep telling people about your treatments and things? I imagine not, so I didn't bring it up and we just talked about general stuff. He stayed a little while, ate well and soon had to leave. In all likelihood that was the last time I will ever see him.
When the party was over, I thanked my sister in law and bro for letting me know what to expect ahead of time, and still, I wasn't prepared. Sis in law said that he told someone at the party that he doesn't have much time left. And that is when I broke down. Much like J, JA is exhibiting a strength and dignity that I am simply in awe of. I didn't want to lose J, and I don't want to lose JA. I know I have zero control over that, but it sucks. I hate it. I don't want to lose people I love. Who does really huh?
Life is too fucking short. The more things like this happen, the more I tend to reexamine my life and want to make some changes to it. Being content with sameness is unacceptable anymore. I'm 46 years old. I'm not getting any younger. If something happens to me, like with J or JA, will I have a full life to look back on? I don't know. I know there is something missing. I know there are so many things I want to do. I know that I am going to go after what I want. I just wish it didn't take such devastating losses to wake one up to these truths.