Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
* * * *
Six-foot-four. If you asked him, and people often did while gazing up at him, “How tall are you,” he would reply, “6-4,” as if someone had once told him that “6-5” (his obvious actual height) sounded like a brag and he did not want to add a brag to his already imposing height. The man bent his head to pass through door frames. He was tall.
Modesty was the virtue he most cherished. It was not a false modesty or a virtue-signaling; I have learned that you will sometimes meet people in life who radiate modesty because they know that life cuts all of us down and they have learned it in the hardest of ways. Mickey J. was one of those people, and when I went to bed last night, I still thought I lived in a world shared with my friend, but he had died yesterday. I woke to the news on my phone.
He was 49, and there is nothing acceptable about death arriving at that age, especially when it strikes down a man as strong, boisterous, and vividly alive as he was.
Was. I shuddered when I typed that.
In recovery, I have experienced moments that can sound like I am immodestly exaggerating parts or making things up. Coincidences only prove the existence of coincidences, but they do provide life with poetry. A couple of those moments came with Mickey alongside, and now I no longer have my friend here to confirm their veracity for you or to relive them with me.
Mickey is the friend about whom I wrote, “He happens to have lived a life story about which everyone says, ‘That sounds like a movie.'” We traveled to attend recovery meetings in several states, we traveled to help friends in emergencies, we traveled. Early on, I started to refer to him as my “big brother,” but he asked me to stop, so I did. He called a lot of people “brother,” and around the time I stopped calling him “big brother,” I started to be included in that company. One of his brothers.
Because we both moved to different parts of New York State, we had not seen each other in two years. A month ago, he reached out, needed a mutual friend’s phone number, and after I sent it to him, he and I played phone and text tag. But at least I know that we both reached out to each other and that the last message I received from him and the last message he received from me were expressions of love and respect.
I would rather be having coffee with my big brother this afternoon, though.
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