Death Comes A-Calling

Thanks to the new social media, I just re-connected to someone I had lost touch with.

And found out her husband, another friend, just died, last year, someone I had spent many hours with, driving from Portland to Eugene and back once a week for a number of months.

The worst part was, my intuition had been telling me to get ahold of him, in the last year, and he died shortly before Thanksgiving last year. In all my travels last year, I could have easily visited him, since he was only in the next state over.

But I didn’t, and now he is no longer.

I can’t imagine how his wife and daughter feel, and the death was both unexpected but an illness that when diagnosed made it obvious there would be an end point, so they had time to say goodbye, but I am left feeling like I failed him as a friend, not following up to get ahold of him.

I saw him last when he came to Los Angeles for some conference, and we met for dinner, maybe six years ago. He appreciated having someone he knew to have dinner with, and I felt like a hostess, being able to visit with a guest to my city. I remember not knowing downtown that well back then, and I was hopeless at suggesting where to eat dinner, and these days I live within walking distance of where we ate and there are far more choices. And that was the last time we spoke, wrote or saw one another, and now he is gone.

I haven’t lost that many people in my life to death. I guess that’s one of the consolations to having such a small circle of close friends, and distant family members. It has never hit me that strongly, when someone passes. My grandparents were all in their 80s and lived thousands of miles away when they died, it certainly wasn’t unexpected and didn’t have a huge impact on me. I have known people from high school who have died, but they were never in my circle of friends. Same for college and life since. I just haven’t had much to do with death.

So why does this one trouble me so much? I can’t even put my finger on why I am so bothered, but bothered and sad I am. I wish we had been better friends, had stayed in touch. I wish I had known he lived nearby, that I might have visited him.

I wish he weren’t gone. He was up to good things, an environmentalist and academician. He strove to make the world a better place.

I guess, if I were to finally put my finger on the emotion I am feeling, it is regret. Regret that the world doesn’t get to continue to receive his enthusiastic attentions to the watersheds of the world, regret that his family no longer has his love in their lives, and regret that he is no longer a part of my life. Of course we will all have memories of him, but I guess I most strongly regret the memories that did not come to be, if we had stayed in touch. I would have more to remember and less to regret, if that had been the case. Or so I think.

But alas no. I’ll just have to get over my regret, and say good-bye to Pete, as there really is nothing more to be done.

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