Anthony wrote about his own funeral a few weeks before he died.
“I don’t want to wake up and find I’m alive just as I’ve been buried, or on the way to the furnace… eek!”.
He was a playful soul and still made me giggle from beyond the grave, which was just as well as the last thing he’d have wanted was for any of us to mope.
Cancer killed him last September, today is his birthday, and I’m bereft.
I still haven’t grieved, I could not.
I’d have screamed if I had been able to but I had a permanent sore throat for days and lost my voice after I heard the news.
I’d have cried if I had been able to but my eyes remained dry.
At the time, lack of sleep protected my brain, priming me instead for total collapse followed by forced, dreamless rest.
This was my body in survival mode; this is how I coped despite myself: Keep going, collapse, get back up, keep going, collapse, get back up.
There was a rhythm to it and it worked; I was lucky.
The depression that blighted five years of my life didn’t swallow me again upon Anthony’s passing but it got close, really close.
I told myself Anthony’s death was a test, one I could not fail.
I told myself time had come to detach ever so slowly but I still haven’t let go for doing so would mean admitting I’ve lost my one witness in this world.
“You’re still dead, aren’t you?” is something I still exclaim out loud at random on a regular basis.
Not a day goes by without thinking of Anthony.
Not a single one.
We had known each other all my adult life.
This kind of enduring bond between two adults is so unusual there are few people I can talk to about it.
Americans seem to be so crushingly alone, so untethered that the very concept of a human anchor is often incomprehensible.
Many have no close friends, no confidant so there’s no frame of reference I can use.
Nine months later, the news of Anthony’s death remain absurd.
The whole thing is ridiculous, a bad joke with an even worse punchline, and my handling of it is commensurate with the ridiculousness.
I’ve embraced disbelief. What else could I possibly do?
In my heart, nothing has changed. Anthony still occupies pride of place, albeit less vocally, which is out of character.
Granted, he’s technically dead and can’t speak but that doesn’t stop me from conversing with him in my head.
I hear his voice as clearly as if he were sitting right next to me, which is a notable improvement on Skype calls. No more static! We’ve cracked transatlantic communications at last.
Life kills us all in the end, often without warning.
But there’ll always be someone to parlay pain into paragraphs in the name of love because they can’t accept you’ve gone.
You see, writing about Anthony is a way of keeping him close a while longer. I’m not yet ready to sift through the rubble of over two decades of friendship for clues on how to carry on without him.
I don’t think I ever will.
In the eye of the storm, words are the collapsible life buoys I hang on to as cancer continues to wreak havoc among those I love.
But as Anthony wrote me on Sept. 1, “Words don’t do life justice… and you can quote me on that.”
He was right.
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.