We lost a dear friend to cancer this week. He is actually the father of a dear friend, but we’re so close to her, we shared her dad, and he took us in like his own kids. And by that I mean he never missed an opportunity to tell us what complete assholes we are. I was never certain Jerry ever really liked me, but I knew he cared about me, because people don’t usually go into elaborate detail about how much of an ass you are unless they do. The last time I saw Jerry, he grabbed my Frankenstein hand (the one that’s had a tendon rebuilt three times, the reason I went on the road in the first place) and squeezed it until I yelled at him. Because he knew I would look like an ass for yelling at a sick guy, and that made him laugh, and people eaten up with cancer don’t laugh much, so I’ll take the shame.
Death has a funny way of making you look at life differently. I spent a lot of years immersed in a culture of death, nursing homes are not happy places to recuperate and go home from. Eight times out of ten, it’s the last stop, and nine times out of ten, it’s an unpleasant place. My entire philosophy on life changed after working in them. Death is a presence — it’s palpable when it’s near. It’s easy to become consumed by it. You have to really decide to be happy and develop coping skills to survive. To me, life is best represented by laughter – to laugh out loud embodies what it means to be alive. Doing it often affirms your place in the mortal coil.
I don’t care if you laugh at me or with me, just do it. Yes, I was making jokes in the bedroom before they took his body away, yes I was the one discussing the fact that if we had to eat Jerry to survive, he’d taste like a Buckeye. Guilty. Thankfully, I was among friends I have known for years and they fully expect such from me. It’s my way of telling Jer I’ll miss him and fully expect him to be watching out for us while we’re hauling stuff across all those bridges he built. Rest in peace, Jerry, may you ride that mower into the sun.