Saturday, December 12, 2009

Under the Weight of Life....

…things look brighter on the other side.

I met him in the third grade. Boys were still yucky then. We had assigned seats, otherwise I would’ve surrounded myself with females.
Back then, of course, he annoyed me. He used to squish flies with his ruler and flick them onto my desk, laughing as I shrieked in horror. He’d tease me relentlessly, but in his defense, he always knew when to back off. By the end of the year, despite my best efforts, I liked him. He was a boy, but he was funny.

As he grew older, the humor grew along with him. We had Geometry together. I hated Math enough anyway, but with him next to me, there was no way in hell I was paying attention. He’d draw me pornographic pictures of Sesame Street characters (his favorites were Burt and Ernie) doing unspeakable things to each other and silly pictures of our friends. We wrote notes back and forth… I don’t remember that, but I found them a few years ago when I was attempting to de-clutter my house. They were funny and filled with all the teenage drama that was our lives.

He belonged to a group of friends I wanted desperately to fit in with but never truly did. It wasn’t their fault, really… I was an odd one. I still am. I just grew up and found people as weird as myself. I honestly couldn’t care less about things like that now but at the time, the rejection hurt. But when others in the group ignored me, he was kind. He always tried to make me feel included. Once, I heard him defend me to someone when neither of them thought I could hear. I never thanked him for that.

He loved skiing, gymnastics, his guitar, his family, his friends and music… especially The Dave Matthews Band. He was a wonderful friend and he was a terrible driver. Once you rode in a car with him once, you tried your best not to make the same mistake again. Eventually, his parents took his car away until we graduated for the safety of drivers everywhere.

High school ended (thank God). I detached myself from “The Group” and made real friends. He and I chatted online from time to time (this was when everyone had AOL). His obsession for the Dave Matthews Band continued. He didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. I always figured he’d end up being that really funny, cool teacher that gets through to the students. But really, he could have been anything he wanted.

When I was 20, as I was leaving my college town to go home for Winter Break, I got my first speeding ticket. Of all the times I had been guilty of speeding (and there were many), this was the lamest time for me to get a ticket because I actually hadn’t realized I was speeding. The signs were very confusing. The cop, of course, was a complete tool despite my best effort to be nice. Seething, I made my way home, stopping to see some friends and do some last-minute Christmas shopping before finally arriving at my parents’ house.
My father answered the door. He looked somber. He told me to sit down. My mother was white as a ghost.

I just knew that somehow they’d found out about my speeding ticket… or, worse, that the night before was the one and only time I’d used my fake ID to get into a bar. I hadn’t even ordered a drink, I’d been so scared. I wondered how in the hell they found out so fast. I immediately started apologizing for the afore-mentioned things as well as every other sin I could think of.

I wish it had been my ticket or the fake ID they were so upset about. It wasn’t. They’d just heard the news that my friend… my wonderful, funny friend… was dead.

He was on his mission when it happened. Yes, he was about the least likely Mormon on the planet (and rumor has it that, though God was surely in his heart, he wasn’t really Mormon after all) and had headed down to Argentina for two years of missionary and service work. To this day, none of us know the details for sure. There are rumors of an aneurism, of parasites and unknown medical conditions. None of that really matters, I guess. All that mattered that night was that I learned he wasn’t coming back.

I was completely shattered. This wasn’t the first friend I had lost or even the first from our class. A classmate had taken his own life the year before which was extremely devastating. But this time my heart didn’t only break for myself. It broke for every single person who knew him. I knew they were all coming home for the holidays and were learning the news. More than anything, my heart broke for his parents, older sister and little brother who had just learned their family would never be whole again.

I’m ashamed at some of the thoughts I had at his funeral. I was angry that the affair was formal, religious, none of the things he was. We couldn’t feel his presence at all. It was like mourning a stranger.  I know it was my grief. I’m not proud of those thoughts, but I was only 20 and didn’t know how to handle it. I’ve always had the gift of empathy but that was the first time I really felt it. It hurt.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that everything really does happen for a reason. I will always be so sad that he was taken from the world so young. But even though he only got to be here for 20 years, he touched more lives than some ever will. His memories are so vibrant because that’s the kind of person he was. I’ll never forget his kindness or the way he made me laugh- and he and I weren’t even that close. I can’t imagine the ways he enriched the lives of his best friends and family. And as for the funeral, I know that this boy’s mother meant more to him than anyone in the world. I know he’d want her to have the kind of closure that she wanted, even if it meant a formal, religious affair that would have bored him to tears in life. We all have the privilege of knowing who he really was; no memorial service is needed to reflect that.

I’ve been to the cemetery a few times, though not recently. There are always flowers. Even though it has been seven years, I think of him often, especially this time of year. I think of him every time I hear a Dave Matthews Band song and he is a part of most of my few good memories from my teenage years. The rest of us grow older, but he remains eternally 20 in our hearts. Memories of him always end the same way… a smile, a laugh, then a hint of a tear.

No matter how much time passes or where we are in our lives, we will always love and miss you, Jason.

Big Eyed Fish

Dave Matthews
Look at this big - eyed fish swimming in the sea oh
How it dreams to be a bird swoop and diving through the breeze
So one day caught a big old wave up on to the beach
Now he’s dead you see beneath the sea is where a fish should be

But oh God
Under the weight of life
Things seem brighter on the other side
You see this crazy man decided not to breathe
He turned red and blue - purple, colorful indeed
No matter how his friends begged and pleaded the man would not concede
And now he’s dead you see the silly man should know you got to breathe

Story of a man,
Who decided not to breathe.
Turned red, purple, then blue.
Colorful indeed.
No matter how his friends begged,
Well, he would not concede,
And now he's dead.
You see, cause everybody knows,
You got to breathe.

But, oh God,
Under the weight of life,
Things seem brighter on the other side...
Lighter on the other side...

Another one: See this monkey sitting on a tree,
One day, decided to climb down,
And run off to the city.
Look at him now, Tired and drunk
And living on the street.
As good as dead.
You see, a monkey should know,
Stay up your tree.

But, oh God,
Under the weight of life,
Things seem brighter on the other side.
Oh, God,
But under the weight of life,
Things seem much brighter on the other side.

No way, no way, no way.... out... of here...

Another one: A big eyed fish,
Yeah, swimming in the sea,
Oh, how he dreamed.
He wants to be a bird,
Swooping, diving through the breeze.
One day, he caught a big blue wave,
Up onto the beach,
And now he's dead.
You see, a fish's dream,
Should stay in the sea.

But, oh God,
Under the weight of life,
Things seem brighter on the other side.

No way... no way...out... of here...

No way out of life.


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