Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Death Ends a Life, Not a Friendship

Delle's was grey & mine was black
It’s no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I have “heard” from my friend, Delle, many times since she died in 2006.

The time that has passed since she died is actually longer than the time we knew each other. But I still find myself talking about her in the present tense.

I’m not the only person who feels that way. It’s going on seven years since she died, and I still hear her friends say “I think about her every day.” She had that kind of effect on people.

Maybe you have a friend who changed your life, and maybe they’re dead. Does that mean your friendship is over? I’ve learned in many ways that the answer is “no.”

As I struggled with writing the book I promised her I’d write, I could hear her voice when I first told her my idea, “Just do it.”

When I worry about money I can hear her sigh, “If you’d write the damn book, you wouldn’t have to worry about that.”

On my desk is a postcard that Delle sent me from Paris. It shows the Eiffel Tower at three different times of day. It’s propped up, but now and then it flops over for no apparent reason. That’s when I know she’s making her presence known.

Other times have been more dramatic: light shining through a stained glass window in church at an important moment; a candle flame shooting up without warning. A couple times a gun-metal grey PT Cruiser (like Delle’s) has pulled up next to me, and when I look over, it’s a beautiful African-American woman who looks like her in the driver’s seat.

Not long ago, I was in our favorite coffee house, Metropolis. My first book was out and the second was close to being released. I was talking about them to two women who are also regulars there. Suddenly a woman said “excuse me” and slipped past where I was standing. When I looked up, she smiled at me: she looked just like Delle. I hope I didn’t look like the deer in the headlights. A few minutes later I checked, but she was nowhere to be seen. I knew it wasn’t her, but still…

I realize that in a different time, say, the Middle Ages, I might be burned at the stake for admitting any of this. But as I’ve talked to people around the country – around the world, actually – about their friends, I’ve learned that these kinds of things are very common.

Many people admit to talking to friends who have died, feeling their presence, hearing their voices. They talk about the impact that person had on them, often, inspiring them to change their lives for the better.

So, if you’ve had experiences similar to these, you can breathe easier now. You’re not crazy and you’re definitely not alone. There are a lot of us out here, keeping the friendship going, long after our friend has died.

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