I have been blessed with more family than I deserve. There are so many people in my life who have taken me in and treated me as their daughter or sister despite the fact that I have no blood ties to them. One of them died two weeks ago.
There are different types of secondhand death. There are the people with whom you occasionally associated, but didn’t really know. They die suddenly, shocking you out of your routine. Their deaths make you realize how precious life is, and for a few months, you make sure to tell people that you love them.
There are the close friends and family members who are sick or old. Their deaths do not surprise you. In a way, it’s a relief–you know that they aren’t in pain anymore. Their deaths, as their lives, make a lasting impression.
Then there are the sudden deaths of those you love. This experience somehow mixes the numbing shock of suddenness with the intense pain of loss. It’s not real for days, weeks even. They’re not gone, you see. They can’t be.
I’m not sad for my friend. He is safe in God’s hands now, just as he was in life. I am sad for us, those who are left behind: his wife, kids, friends, and colleagues. I’m sad for the thousand-plus people who were at his visitation and funeral, and those who couldn’t make it. As one man said at his funeral: “I know that if he were here, he would tell me that he’s okay. But I guess what I really need to hear him say is that I’m going to be okay, too.”
On Tuesday, many of his friends went to Starbucks to honor him. We all ordered his favorite drink and gave his name to the barista (the poor man was confused when the café was filled with Jeffs, some of them female). Then we toasted our friend.