gratitude-a-thon day 2087: get busy living, or get busy dying

I got an email on Saturday morning that let me know that a guy I went all the way from Kindergarten to high school with, had died. I had that reaction we get when we aren’t prepared for something we learn. A questioning of the words, a full-body tingle, a quick reread. He’d been sick for many years, battling some sort of lung issue. And now he was gone.

It wasn’t that we were very close friends, we weren’t, but we were certainly friends. Oh, he did ask me to the Senior prom, which I’d had to say no to because I’d already said yes to someone else. And we did share that outdated and ridiculous superlative pick of being Best Looking in our senior class. And we may or may not have had a date in Boston after college that ended in a make-out session in my Newbury Street apartment, which was like kissing your brother and we never saw each other again! But like so many people I went to school with, he was a constant, the low din of background music, the Bethel backdrop of growing up. See, I never moved once. I grew up in the same small town, in the same old creaky Victorian house for my whole life. It was like that for many of us. There were generations who’d inhabited that tiny town. Everybody knew everybody. And the people you went to school with, who showed up every September with new haircuts or new bras, a few new inches, or the fear of having an erection in class, were such a constant in your every day, you’d remember them the rest of your life.

There are many reasons I feel sad over this way-too-early loss. One is that it is premature. Yes, I know, he wasn’t 25 years old. But it’s still too soon, there are still too many happy and astounding experiences that will never be. His wife shouldn’t be widowed. His kids shouldn’t be without their dad. Two is the wake-it-on-up call that says Jeez, here’s where we are, class of 1977–we’re dying now.

Armand Menegay. That was his name. He was smart and gorgeous and athletic and had a great personality. He’d created a good life. One that shouldn’t have ended so fucking soon. But he reminded me to be more present today, to love a little harder and louder, to remember that as Andy says to Ellis in the Shawshank Redemption, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” We all have that expiration date looming. Grateful to have known you, Armand. Here’s to you.

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