The last few weeks are pretty much a blur at this point. I realized today that its been 18 days since I last decided to blog. I can’t seem to really remember what was going on 18 days ago other than my friend being in the hospital having blacked out on his birthday. Of course there was Thanksgiving which came and went almost without notice. That was quite the relaxing week actually, I had no classes to attend, worked once, and spent some time at a coffee shop writing a paper. It turned out to be the most relaxing bit of time I’ve had.
Last week I got a phone call. Things with my friend were not looking good. Even though I knew things were looking grim I didn’t entertain the idea that he would not get better. After all, this is the kid who no matter what he does excels at it. Why should fighting cancer be any different? As long as I knew him, it didn’t matter what it was, he was good, and by good, I mean miles ahead of the competition. Take golf for example. While for me, and many others, it is a good walk ruined, for him it was effortless. In high school he was a scratch golfer. I remember going to the driving range just to watch him show off. It was fun. People would “oohh” and “aahh” as he launched the range balls 30 feet higher than the fence. I would sit there, in awe of his talent and proud to be his friend.
But it wasn’t just golf he was good at. It was anything and everything. Guitar, a phenom. Art, a savant. Sleeping, a perfectionist. I mean it, this kid slept like it was his job in college. It pretty much happened anytime when he wasn’t slaving away in the art studio or plucking the strings of his guitar. He had many interests and was able to walk in many different worlds and so the thought never crossed my mind that he would succumb to something. Not him. No way in hell.
Then a week ago tonight I got a phone call. He passed away in his home. It was almost to surreal to deal with. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know how to react or what to say. I thought I would have been so overcome with tears, and those tear would come, but right after that phone call I was too shocked to do anything. But I did, my wife, my other best friend, his wife, we started calling people to inform them of the news. And then, we had a drink. It didn’t do much to numb me as I felt numb already. That numbness lasted the night and the next few days. Make no mistake, those next few days were excruciatingly painful and slow. I kept hoping the news I had heard was wrong. That this was all just some sick nightmare, but it wasn’t. He was gone. Funeral and wake information was released. Slide shows remembering him were created. People got together to begin the grieving process.
And then we attended the wake. He looked so different. Not the guy I had coffee and lunch with so many times over the last few months. Not the guy who stood up at our other best friend’s wedding and gave a surprising yet inspiring best man speech. Not the guy who would randomly text me about the lewd Paula Deen comment or random movie quotes. His face was distorted, skin almost waxy, and a smile on his face that didn’t quite belong. I don’t mean that the funeral home did a bad job or anything, I just mean I looked in that casket and almost didn’t recognize my friend. It was hard. It made it harder to believe that everything that was going on was real.
But it was real. And the next day came the funeral. Up until Tuesday I had never been a pall bearer or given a eulogy, that day I did both. Emotions were difficult to contain during the service. Especially when my eyes would find the casket decked out in flowers, one of which containing the phrase “Ey Yo Dirk.” That was the one that got me. It was from his brother and it was a nickname they shared. I don’t know how both were Dirk but they were. They were close too. I’ve never known brothers that close, which is what made it hard for me to look at. But it was not the hardest.
Carrying the casket isn’t difficult physically, but it tests your emotions. On the one had you are carrying your friend to his final resting place, ensuring he makes it there safe. But on the other you are putting him in the ground, only to be raised on that last day. And even though I know the story hasn’t quite ended for him, it was the sight of his coffin above his grave that caused me to loose it. I wouldn’t get to text him randomly. We wouldn’t go out for coffee or lunch. We wouldn’t hit up Kappy’s again or do a Taco Bell and John Wayne night. We wouldn’t get to randomly drive around or have a fire in his backyard just because we were bored. This was it. The finality of it all hit me in a way it hadn’t before. A way I can’t seem to stop thinking about.
As much as I think about my own sense of loss seeing as he was a dear friend, I wasn’t the only one. He wasn’t my brother, he wasn’t my son. But he was Steve’s brother, he was Charlie and Bev’s son. And how they or anyone else made it through this last week and how they will make during the weeks to come I do not know. I keep telling people it feels like he still here. Like the “phantom limb” syndrome where people who have lost limbs still feel like they are there. I keep waiting for a text that I know is never coming. I keep hoping that we will all get together at his house or all go out to kappys tomorrow.
But it won’t happen. And I hate it. I miss him. I miss going out with him. I miss the stupid Ric Flair videos and chats about who the top 50 WWE Superstars of all time are. I miss the passing out in his basement not because we were actually tired but because we are bored. I miss the random movies he’d watch or the stories he’d tell about his trips to the goth club. I just miss my friend. All this week I have heard it time and again, “He’s in a better place.” Or, “He isn’t in pain now.” Or, “Now he’s with Jesus so everything is ok.” But everything is not OK. He should be here.
Death is not natural. If anything has convinced me of this it is this past week. Death is the ultimate enemy because of its finality. Death is not some grand part of the plan, it is what is resultant of the story taking a bad turn. People might argue that if Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned and brought things into the world like death then there would be no need for a Savior. But that only serves as an attempt to lessen the blow felt by death. It serves to soften the harsh reality that death confronts us with. It is a theological marshmallow and while it may taste good it offers nothing to sustain you. Frankly, Im sick of hearing things like that, because I want my friggen friend back. I don’t care if death ended his pain. I don’t buy that garbage about God wanting him in heaven more than I want him here. But I don’t get what I want. And it sucks.
Only the situation is not void of hope. Because one day I will get what I want. I will get to see him live and breathe again. That is the hope of Christianity, the hope of the resurrection of the body. Even though his body was placed in the ground, one day it will be made whole and alive. The work of Christ, his suffering, death, and resurrection assures this. Not because I have the ability to claim it as my future, but because Christ has authored the story. He isn’t some plan B that happened about or some cosmic get out of jail free card. He is the one who broke through the other side and rendered death powerless. It is He who sends out the Spirit to comfort those who mourn with the hope that he purchased and won. It is he who reminds me that the story has not yet ended for my friend or any other friend that is a partaker of the resurrection to come.
And so I wait. I wait for the pain to go away, though Im not sure it ever will. I wait for the text I know will never come. I wait for my hope not to disappoint. I wait for the return of the one who wrote the story. I wait for the resurrection of the dead and life of the world to come.I wait for the moment I get to see my friend again, alive and well. I wait for you Matthew Coleman Nix because I miss you and I love you. I wait for you knowing that one day we will get to have another cup of coffee or whatever they serve that side of the resurrection. I wait for the moment I know will come, I just wish I didn’t have to…