I lost a friend to an illness this summer. He was only 40.
What do I do when confronted with this sadness? I offered to host the memorial service. It’s what I have to give, and in a way it helps me with my own grieving to hold space for others.
I collected photos for the obligatory slideshow. Photos of his childhood. Him with his mother. Photos of his wild 20s. Photos of his settled-down 30s. Photos of his reinventing himself as he began his 40s.
Some were simultaneously painful and joyful as they showed his promise, his potential, his way of living, all gone too soon. The rest were mostly hilarious. Shenanigans with his friends. Parties. The way he cooked for people to show his love for them.
When someone passes on, it’s a vivid window into life. They remind us of all the intangible things we can receive from each other.
And even with his tough-guy facade, he was also not above selfies. There I was, making his funeral slideshow, and I saw some of them in a row, and they struck me as possibly out of character, but I may have smiled at the false seriousness in them. And I cherish how deliberate they are.
I don’t have any photos of me with Julian. But there is a large group of them that were taken at various events at my house. He came to all of our parties, but I have to pick out the kitchen cupboards in the background or the railing of our back deck behind him in order to connect us in my mind.
But the reason I feel like sharing his story is that, shortly before he was overtaken by his illness, I had asked him to sit for a portrait. I had an image in mind that would tell a beautiful story about my friend, but he didn’t feel well that day, and called to cancel. We never rescheduled, but I will always wish I had tried again.
Do you have a photo of a departed friend or family member that captures the bigger experience of having them in your life?
Would you like to tell me about it?