Tuesday night last week, the night schools released for Thanksgiving break, my friend Eric was killed by a drunk driver at 6:30 pm. I can only guess he was heading home after work, ready for 5 days of relaxing, eating, and celebrating with friends. He was a teacher, so of course his “break” would have been filled with planning, grading, and preparing for the three-week rush that speeds up and slows down time between turkey day and the winter break. He never got to do any of it. Not the planning and grading, not the relaxing, and certainly not the celebrating.
Eric gave me many things.
The joy of watching my children sing.
The moving sight of him interacting with his students, even if all we ever saw was his back as he directed the choir.
Bacon jam as a pizza topping.
He tried his very best to give me an understanding of 32 count music.
He gave me Wicked (the musical).
And this song nails it for me. The lyrics: "I've heard it said, that people come into our lives for a reason. Bringing something we must learn . . ."
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the food (of course), the family. The focus on togetherness and thankfulness and gratitude.
This year was extra special. My parents drove down from Vermont with their dog to stay for 4 nights. We had a sailing family, who most of my family had never met in person, with us for 5 nights. We added an additional 8 people over that already-at-11-total for a grand total of 19. Behan and my mom and I cooked for 2 days, and loved every second of it. The dinner was a grand success, culminating in a lovely slide show by the Totems that shared a glimpse into their lives as they (a family of 5) are on year 8 of a circumnavigation on board their 47’ sailboat.
This year, Thanksgiving was studded with tears as memories of Eric would pop up in unexpected moments. The last time I saw him was at one of our gatherings, so I’d see his ghost sitting at the counter, or hear his laugh in some comment. Yes, he wasn’t here. But he WAS. He had been. So does that mean he is, in some way, always there?
What can I take from this?
Love. Laugh. Tell people how much they mean.
You seriously never, ever know when it might not be available to you again.
I miss you, Eric. Godspeed.