It was late in the evening when I decided to check Facebook. As I casually scrolled through posts one caught my eye and in that second the world stopped spinning on its axis.
I frantically reread the words again but stopped after the first sentence.
Alex, our whole family was devastated to learn of your Dad’s passing today.
I yelled to Rocket-man. “Where’s my phone. I need the phone now!”
“What’s wrong,” he asked, clearly concerned by my frantic searching.
I could barely get the words out.
“Harry is gone.”
Moments later I’m on the phone with my best friend of 32 years… hoping that the Facebook post was a silly prank or some such thing.
“Mabe….is everything OK?” I ask in a hushed voice.
“No.” came the quiet reply.
Her husband is gone. Harry is gone.
I couldn’t stop crying. Rocket-man had his head in his hands as the news was confirmed.
Harry is gone. I simply cannot wrap my head around the news.
This cannot be! We have plans for next year for God’s sake. We are all going to walk the Camino De Santiago together. We ran miles and miles together…He found me on the ground, in a heap of tears, after my first marathon. Too spent to walk two steps he guided me home like a proud father. We hiked the Grand Canyon together….We cycled in Canada together….We drank gallons of wine and went on countless volksmarches through Germany together. My kids called him “Uncle Harry” even though he was not a blood relative. Harry even pushed me over the edge to marry Rocket-man….
…and on and on. Thoughts of Harry and his family rolled through my head, long into the night.
In the morning I awoke in a panic: Where is that note he sent me some seventeen years ago? Oh God…it’s packed away! It’s a note in which Harry outlines what my goals for the year should be. Only three bullet points, the last of which simply stated: “…and marry Doug.”
Again, the tears come. He cannot be gone.
My heart breaks into a million pieces for my best friend Mabel and her boys…and all the grand kids…and their large circle of friends. They are a close-knit bunch and without Harry, the sun will never shine quite the same again.
I met Harry and Mabe thirty-two years ago. We hadn’t been stationed in Germany long when my then husband said we needed to help one of his colleagues (That would be Harry) move a few things from his quarters on post to a house on the German economy. It sounded like fun outing to meet someone new so, with our two-year old son in tow, off we went. By the end of that night a lifelong friendship was born.
Harry served his country and his community all of his life. He’d give you the shirt off his back. Extremely well read and smart as a whip, he was also quite the character. His jokes, often off-color, made us laugh until our sides ached and tears rolled down our cheeks. Every time I visited their home there was always something new to learn and much fun to be had, even when things took a serious turn (and they often did because that is life). There was always love, laughter, gregarious conversation, and plenty of wine, chips and salsa. I seriously craved visits to Harry and Mabel’s house. I craved the laughter, silliness and general simplicity of how they lived their lives. Our many get-togethers with Harry and his family through the years enriched my life in ways too many to count. Foremost, I learned love and self-acceptance.
Harry and Mabel opened their hearts and their home to me and my family all those years ago, showing me the true meaning of family and friendship. Until they came into my life, my seriously dysfunctional upbringing was the brick wall that defined me. Laughter chipped away at that wall, literally knocking out huge chunks of melancholy and insecurity, turning them into bits of dust. Their love, loyalty and friendship have carried me through both darkness and light and I will cherish each and every one of those moments until my last breath.
We’re gonna miss you Harry. And though there are tears now, there is some comfort in knowing that you’re another angel in heaven. I’m raising a glass of good Cabernet to you as I’m sure you are already joking up a storm as you pass through those pearly gates. Please Don’t stop. I’ll be expecting them when it’s my turn.
Rest in peace my dear friend.