Friday, May 21, 2004

To My Fallen Friends

To: Mike, Jack, Tony, Larry, Amy, Rick & Nancy

My Dear Loved Ones,

It's soon to be Memorial Day, our most favorite holiday. I know that I used to love Memorial Day because it ushered in our summer antics. Later, through Mike and Rick's military stories I grew to understand that Memorial Day was a day to honor and celebrate those who served our country and who lost their lives doing so. When thinking about this day during these past few weeks, I've experienced an ebb and flow of unrestrained emotion that has been a long time coming. And in the process, I've missed you all the more than in these past 2 years.

It all started just over 2 months ago with Mike's birthday. For me, Mike's birthday always marks the round of subsequent birthdays, anniversaries or important milestones in our lives that we all celebrated. Now it's a reminder of what will not be. Sigh.

Every morning for the past few weeks on my way to work, I've finally begun to shed tears. Whether reading the newspaper or writing to a new friend stationed at the front, there have been tears to be shed over memories long past. Tears, for moments left unexplored. and events that will never be. My grief, though late in coming, has begun to emerge, slow and unrestrained. I fear it's full arrival, for when it comes I fear its full force, and the full paralysis of my voice and writing.

I think what has begun to hurt the most has been remembering the phone calls I received the morning of 9/11. Jack, Tony and Lisa's calls are still with me till this day, replaying every so often as I wistfullly look downtown through my window. That window is the only connection I have with all of you of that morning.

For a long time after you all left, I was devoid of feeling. A living numbness that I thought was permanent. I remember sitting at our favorite restaurant 2 days later as we had planned, waiting to meet Lisa; still in shock; still unwilling to accept the truth. As I sat there, I kept half expecting all of you to show up, all dusty, having freshly escaped your mausoleum. It was as time and I were suspended in mid air, waiting for gravity to kick in. That is I waited until just recently.

What I remember about the day after, was the deafening silence. No phone calls, no conversations, no jokes, and no tears. There was no TV as all the network signal antennas were atop towers 1 & 2, and no ringings of cell phone or doors.

Each night I returned home hoping to hear from one of you. I wanted to call, but with the fall of the towers all the lines were down. Knowing how fiercely independent you all were, I kept believing that if you had survived you would be right down there in the pit helping in the rescue effort. So night after night, I curled up in bed with the phone clutched to my stomach. Each night I hoped against what was reported, that no survivors were being found. Each night I prayed that somehow a miracle would happen. For many days I went on thinking that I would wake up from this nightmare state, and everything would be just as it was before it began. When I slowly began to realize you guys might not be coming home, I prayed even harder.

My miracle never came.

Now all I have left of you are remnants of tangible objects. Your voices have long since been erased by new and improved technology that was installed after 9/11. Your birthday and christmas cards and gifts are all that remain of you with me. Just yesterday I was finally putting away my winter clothes and came across Mike's blue v-neck wool sweater I borrowed the weekend before when we went hiking. I lovingly held it in my arms inhaling it's scent and trying to conjure memories of you back to me.

You were all such an integral part of my daily life, and are missed so greatly! I'm truly thankful that we lived and shared, as if each gathering would be our last. There were never any unspoken truths or emotions held back. Our love for honesty and for each other made that impossible.

Although I miss you all more than words can say, I know that you are all in a wonderful peaceful place, smiling and watching over me from heaven.

Mike, I want to thank you for staying with me in spirit and finding new people to inspire me the way you did. You always said that replacing you would take at least 3 people and you were right. You've given me one friend that has helped inspire my writing as you once did. Another that has inspired my love of working out again. Yes, I've got a ways to go before that marathon we were supposed to run, but as you always said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step". You've given me a third, who has basically had his family adopt me, very much like you did when our friendship first started.

All of them are incredible individuals and greatly admired by their men, much like you were. They, like you once did, serve our country, working hard every day to protect my way of life and the principles our constitution guarantees.

Mike, you've been looking out for me, just as you did when you were on earth. I remember when I went to live overseas and I admitted to you that I was scared about my new life, and everyone being so far away. You said to me, "nothing really has changed, other than you'll be in a new location. You'll be just a little farther away from us, so it'll be a bit harder to have dinner together, but we'll still call and email you everyday like we do now."

Although you're a little further away now and you can't email or call, I am grateful that I still feel you with me from time to time, cheering me on when I'm moving forward, and nagging my mind when I'm not.

I'm glad that you dispatched the rest of the gang to The Front, to watch over these incredible special men you've put in my life. They are the ones helping me bridge the chasm of death, and slowly bringing me back to life.

Thank you, my dear beloved friends. On this Memorial Day I salute you all. On Sunday, I will place a wreath in the Hudson River in memory of you and those fallen, both for your past service to this country, and for the legacy you left in those you touched: a love of country and service to it.

As usual, I'll be going to Veniero's to celebrate Rick's birthday. Know that I'm sending you promises of writing soon, with big bear hugs and sandwich kisses to keep you in love until we're all together once again. Till then, I'll leave you with the same words I used to say whenever we said goodbye,

: )  Miss you already...
and now its more than you'll ever know!
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