Remembering A Friend
Valentine's Day, Death, and the Beauty of Friends
Heading to the beach in Santa Cruz with my brother Wyatt, I reminded him that it was Valentine’s Day, and that this day we lost someone very close to us, years ago. We smiled at the thought of our friend, a truly special person full of so much love. We put on our wetsuits and headed for the ocean where, at least today, people were kind.
(This next paragraph is somewhat rote, but still bares repeating at times.)
I used to hate the concept of Valentine's Day—how it was a day set aside supposedly for love, but really for a love of greed and money. I believed for years that it was a load of bullshit. Love wasn’t something to be hoarded and then shared on one day, one occasion where we are all almost obligated to profess our loves for each other, platonic but mostly romantic, and then leave all that beckoning aside until the next year. But, for me, the kind of love that I share, at least as I see it, is not in statements or just in time, but in the way I make others feel, the way others fill my thoughts. Most of what I feel as love for others is often left unsaid, either because time passes and we are no longer explicitly in our lives, or, like others, they die and can no longer speak to those affections.
I am always reminded on Valentine's Day of death. Eight years ago on that day, I lost one of my best friends, and a person who I still consider my most important mentor, though he wouldn’t have called himself that. To be honest, much of who I am, the good and stubborn in me, I would blame him for giving to me. I remember being in middle school, seeing him walking around with a Casio keyboard, giving everyone the time of day and thinking, “I want to be like Noah.” I feel ever thankful I got to tell him that before he left.
Yet there are so many other people I can blame for who I am. Not one of us on this earth is a purely original person. From the moment we are born, we witness tragedy and success—and how those around us who we love react to those things may inspire or revolt us, and from there a form of our character is created. I am struck that at the age of twenty-eight, I am still meeting people who inspire me to change in ways I never thought I would before. We do not live in a bubble, sectioned off from everyone else, and I think of love as much the same. It is not quarantined from each person but rather something built about and through our communities. And it is not just made on new connections, but lost ones as well.
To think of death on Valentine's Day just seems fitting. I am not attempting to consider love on this day as something powerfully infinite or stupidly romantic, but rather something finite, ephemeral, and easily lost to the chaos of misfortune and mistakes. I think in the finitude that is life, love is able to flourish—it feels so endless only because we know that people, like me and you, might sit here one day in our place, thinking fondly of the good and bad that we were, thankful to have known us, and shaken by the tragedy that is this life.
It may seem morbid, but to me it’s not. It makes me happy that I am here at all, able to receive and give any amount of this enigma that is love. It makes me sad that this life will go, absolutely. But I am fortunate to have the temperament to love the fuck out of life, even in its darkest times. I am also so grateful for all the loves I’ve had—passing by or not, these loves are what shaped me.
As my brother and I sat in a cafe later that day, I looked at him, seeing how much the both of us had changed through the years and how in some ways we have remained the same. To watch change in my brother, my sibling, or my sister in our ever altering lives is to watch us each grow into newer, better selves. I guess this is all to say that I am thankful for my friend Noah, for the way he touched everyone in my family, along with countless others. And that, because of him, I have a tragic but beautiful way to celebrate this weird yet beautiful Hallmark holiday.
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