None of us truly die. Our flesh may fall as we return to the earth, but a continuation exists that does not rely on the breath being sucked into and out of our lungs or blood pumping into the chambers of our heart.
We exist in memory. Our stories live on in our friends, in our family. Our ghosts trample the blacktops and fields where we played basketball and backyard football and forged friendships and waged wars with pre-adolescent enemies in a make believe game of war in the woods that ran alongside Cub Creek in Phenix, Virginia.
With time the sadness on our face transforms into a smile as the thought of a loved one passes into mind or at the sight of a photograph. They say time heals all wounds. I’d say time helps. The wound may heal but a scar will forever remain, which is okay. A scar isn’t a bad thing necessarily. A scar is a memory of yesterday that stays with us in the present.
Nine years ago on January 19, 2007, is a day that will be forever etched into my memory. It was a day of great loss when one of the closest friends I have ever known, or will ever know, passed on from this world after a two and a half year battle with Grade III anaplastic oligodendroglioma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
I have many fond memories of Jeremiah. I could list funny story after funny story over and over again, so much that they could be compiled and fill a book, which is exactly what I did at one point in my life. The book doesn’t exist on a shelf anywhere but on my hard drive. There are several readers of this blog who read an early rendition of this story in 2007. I’m fairly critical of the writing in it. I was young. It was very much a draft. But I do love the memories.
Jeremiah was my next door neighbor for the majority of my life until he left for college. I remember the day he moved in next door actually. I remember peeking through the upstairs window as cardboard boxes entered the front and side doors of the two story house across from mine.
There is so much I remember, including today, nine years ago. Sometimes I want to forget a day like today. But I remember it all, even what led up to learning Jeremiah had taken his last breath.
Walking to class at the University of Virginia and spotting a car with the license plate HAV F8H in the parking lot adjacent to Clark Library on campus. Leaving class and standing at the bus stop with my friend Joe, telling him how my friend Robbie and I were going up to see Jeremiah again that weekend. Receiving a call from Kelly asking if she could catch a ride with us. Getting home, dropping my book bag on the bed at my dorm, and heading down to Barracks Road to buy groceries and again seeing the same car from Clark Library with the license plate that read HAV F8H. Walking back up the stairs to my dorm and receiving a phone call from my friend Josh saying he and Jim just left Jeremiah’s and he wasn’t looking too good. Less than an hour later finding out he had taken his last breath. Crying non-stop on my bed, drenched in sweat and tears. Robbie calling me immediately afterward asking if I wanted him to drive down from Richmond and pick me up, if I was going to be okay. I remember thinking how sad Robbie probably felt when I got off the phone. Jeremiah and Robbie were inseparable. Rarely did I ever think about one without the other. And now there was just one.
I remember when my tears let up and the good thoughts poured in. The good memories. How it all just came to me like a flood — just as it had the day he was diagnosed with brain cancer. The day Jeremiah came over to my house and told me and my sister how he saw the “cats making sex.” Pull-up jumpers right in my eye. Backyard football. The train trestle. The car wreck. The parties. And I sat at my laptop and I wrote until my eyes felt like they were going to bleed. And I cried. And I laughed. And eventually I laid down on my bed to gather myself so that I could continue writing, and I fell asleep until morning.
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