“My Best Friend Died and It Changed My Life”
Aug 31, 2011 by Victoria Noe, in Friend Grief , Grief , grieving styles , men's grief
|The 4-legged version of George|
If George Davis was an animal, he’d be a Labrador retriever puppy: boundless energy and enthusiasm, openly affectionate and fun.
We met at a writer’s conference in New York, and I was touched by his encouragement of my work. He’s a cheerleader for his friends and their dreams. But it took the death of his best friend to make him a cheerleader for his own dreams.
Over wine at Rachel’s on 9th Avenue, he told me about his friend, who died at the much too young age of 29. Most of that conversation will be revealed in my book, but there was something that struck me then, and in the eloquent eulogy he gave at the memorial service.
The media have introduced us to the Myth of the Perfect Dying Person: the saintly one, who never complains despite excruciating pain; the one who protects those closest to them from their fate. The problem is that in this case it was true.
In George’s eulogy, his brother’s college roommate reflected, “I only met him a few times, and am ashamed to say that his always lively, animated demeanor lulled me into underestimating the severity of his illnesses.” It’s a noble and self-sacrificing thing that these friends do for us: shield us from reality, from pain both physical and emotional. But like the man said, it lulls us into a false sense of security.
When George and I talked that night, it was clear that even though they spent as much time together as possible, the fact that they weren’t together at the end weighed on him. But what was truly important had already happened: his friend knew how much he was loved.
To lose your best friend at so young an age – any age – is a life-changing experience. The best way I can explain its effect on George is to say he finally answered the question, “What are you waiting for?” He found the strength to commit: to move back to the states from France, to the work that was meaningful to him, to the woman he loved. And he gives full credit to his best friend.
Not everyone has so dramatic an epiphany following the death of a friend. But sometimes we need a kick in the butt to do what we were always meant to do. It shouldn’t surprise you when it’s your best friend doing the kicking.
G.G. Davis, Jr. (aka VirtualDavis) creates, collects and curates adventure stories from the Adirondack shore of Lake Champlain. An unabashed flâneur, Virtual Davis is the author of Rosslyn Redux, a transmedia chronicle of marriage testing misadventure, exurban flight and eco-historic rehab.