Death has a cruel way of reminding a person of what is really important. Just two years ago, my wife’s sister passed away (she was only 46). I miss her laugh, the unique looks she would give and even her gestures. After she died, I cried for weeks. It was then, and only then, that I realized just how much I really loved her. Last year, one of my oldest friends died of cancer. And just a couple weeks ago, one of the closest friends (Epp, short for his last name Epperly) I’ve ever had suddenly passed from a heart attack (he was only 49). It shook me and broke my heart.
I’m 49 and I’ve obviously had to deal with death before. But nothing about this gets easier. I’m realizing that I’ve hit that age where this will unfortunately become more frequent. And once again, I’m realizing that when you lose someone you love, you feel like you lose part of yourself in the process.
Funny thing is, I hadn’t seen Epp in a couple years and I had only talked to him once this year. But that’s the power of a childhood friendship, infrequent visits do not equal closeness. I had known Epp since 7th grade. We played baseball and basketball together for six straight years. When I started thinking about it, it made me realize that in high school we essentially hung out everyday for about nine straight months each year. And for about 2-3 years, I hung out at his house an awful lot, often spending the night and regularly crashing at his house after school.
All of this got me to thinking about the bond of a childhood friendship. It’s a friendship like no other; you could never build such a friendship as an adult. I mean, as a teenager, you spend the night, spend entire summers together, take classes together, and on and on. It creates a bond that lasts a lifetime. When Epp passed away, it took a part of me with him. There are inside jokes and stories that nobody else on the planet will ever know. And now there are memories that can no longer be shared together.
This past Saturday night, eight of my high school friends got together. There was never a formal reason for stating the reason but it was painfully obvious why. We needed to celebrate Epp’s life by sharing the same old stories for the hundredth time. And we needed to take the time to get together (something we neglect far too often). I’ve been out of high school now for 31 years, but Epp’s passing helped me realize how much I love some of those guys. My big point — don’t wait to make that call to your oldest and dearest friends. Take it from me, you might just hate yourself if you do.
This is our 11th grade American Legion picture. I’m #25. Epp is behind me #?9