Ripples

I see him, this young man, moving aimlessly through the crowded living room.

The dining table is laden with food: cold cuts, salads, desserts. Every now and then someone picks a grape or strawberry from an edible display, one of those decorative arrangements that uses fruit instead of flowers.

Still, there is no shortage of flowers. The air is thick with their scent. Birds of Paradise swan gracefully from a crystal vase. Orchids, roses, daisies, jostle for space on any available surface.They seem so out of place in the dark, waning days of January.

Every few minutes the doorbell rings with another delivery. The dog has given up barking and hunkers down under the dining table looking miserable.

I track the young man as he drifts, ghost-like, around clusters of chatting visitors.

His name is Colin. He is one of David’s oldest friends. That sounds funny, considering they are both just 27.

David and Colin met on the first day of kindergarten and through all the drama and upheaval of adolescence and young adulthood their bond remained strong.

It’s a miracle, really, considering how different they are.

Where Colin loved sports and helping his dad work on the family truck, David dove into music — punk, post-punk, experimental. He took weekly guitar lessons, from an old, accomplished rocker, and spent hours in his bedroom honing his talent.

At 17, David moved out to find his own way, walk his own path. Colin went to college and lived at home until he’d saved enough for a down payment on a house.

David lived in run-down dwellings with fellow musicians, working low-paying jobs and hoping the money would last until rent day.

To anyone who saw them together, they looked a bit of an odd couple. Colin wore his thick blond hair short and neatly trimmed. His clothes were conservative, casual jeans and sweat shirts.

At times David’s long dark hair was in dreadlocks, at others it was shaven. His skin was pierced and tattooed. His tight black jeans appeared spray-painted on and he had painstakenly hand-sewn band patches onto his denim jacket, punching through the unforgiving fabric one stitch at a time. He was a walking billboard for some of history’s crustier anarcho-punk bands, like Crass, Throbbing Gristle and Flux of Pink Indians.

The two reminded me of Bert and Ernie. David, zoomed through life like the calamitous Ernie, living to perform his music in dimly lit taverns and noisy halls. Colin, the methodical Bert, spent his days in front of a computer, working on the fine points of construction drawings and blueprints.

They were two parallel lines on a graph that merged and parted and merged again, their genuine affection for each other the common baseline.

What was it like, I wondered, to share a friendship that went back as far as you could remember? Eating school lunches together. Afternoon play dates after morning kindergarten. And as they grew, hanging out in the park in the evening, going to school dances, heading to a movie with a group of friends.

Now, here I am in the crowded kitchen, back against the counter, watching Colin, a good head taller than most in the room, moving towards me. He looks like a lost little boy. I give him a hug and we both stand, silent. There are no words. I can’t tell him everything will be all right, because it won’t.

It is just days after my beautiful boy’s death. I think of him, lying silent and alone in a mortuary, far from the throngs of grieving people who have descended on our house.


Five years on and the death of one person continues to echo through so many lives, like ripples from a pebble tossed into a still pond.

Today, on the fifth anniversary of David’s death, these memories wash over me, leave me gasping for air, drowning me once again in a sea of grief.

Five years on and the death of one person continues to echo through so many lives, like ripples from a pebble tossed into a still pond.

I think of David’s friends brought to their knees at word of his death.

A part of them died on that cold, snowy noon hour when David’s life was snuffed out by a careless driver. I know because they tell me so. All these years later some are still lost, trying to navigate a world where pain and disaster are just around the corner. Why wouldn’t it be? David’s death is proof of that.

All of them have felt the earth’s seismic shift that death brings. They too have had to crawl out of the abyss and go on with life.

So, I will mark this anniversary with many of those friends. We will tell stories about David and raise a glass of beer to him in one of the bars where he once played his wild, tumultuous music. The ripples continue to spread.

There’s something else I remember from that long-ago time. As he was leaving, Colin turned and hugged me. I hugged back with the ferocity of a mother tiger protecting her cub.

And from that moment, came a tiny respite from the pain. Because it felt like David was there hugging me and I was hugging him back.