The snow has been falling steadily throughout the day. The wood stove has been churning, glowing, expelling heat, for almost as long. My family and I are nestled safely in a purple house called the Happy Castle in a tiny mountaintop college town called Monteagle. This evening, we've had aromatic Sidecars and perfect Martinis by our own personal alchemist, a delicious grazing menu of fritto misto, roasted pepper and goat cheese bruschetta, and some fammus hummus for an early dinner of sorts. There's been so much laughter, good talk, a walk in the snowy, slushy dark, an adorable, excitable dog and even a spirited snowball fight. Now we're sitting here in our pajamas and it's only 7:30. Candles flickering, quiet breathing, dog sleeping. Life is rich, delicious, sweet, and full.
Add to this picture of near perfection the telephone call we just received from one of our closest, long-time family friends with sad, sad news. Mom picked up the phone and after we heard her emphatic, breathy "what?!" (the one that no one ever wants to hear), we soon discovered that our most dear, deeply talented, big-hearted, hilarious, genius friend (and the renter of dad's downstairs studio), Tom Howard, has gone to be with his Jesus. He was walking with his wife in the park. He suffered a heart attack. He could not be revived.
People leave this earth every day. I understand that it's not something we should be numb or accustomed to, but still, why is it such a terrible shock, a sock in the gut, a blow that clears the nasal passages when the ones we love are, quite all of a sudden, gone? Vanished? Never to be seen, heard, inhaled, enjoyed again? I'm not yet able to comprehend Tom's passing, nor the searing sadness his wife and his children are experiencing.
"Holy crap. Tom Howard. I loved that guy." That's dad's grieving language, I think. He has experienced too much of this brand of tragic loss in his lifetime, which I'll not go into right now, but he's got his own way of coping, I suppose. My dad and Tom had real camaraderie. They had [almost] a daily Yuengling together. They had this funny backwards salute thing they did at one another, and I like to imagine they always chuckled. They had common ground -- 'old' dogs who had taught themselves new tricks in order to remain current in the music industry. They loved one another with full, understanding hearts, as brothers do.
Life can change in a heartbeat, a phone call, a breath's width. Our lives can change drastically in the loss of someone else's life. Here we sat, laughing and catching our breath from the residual joy of our snowball battle, the chilly roses just fading from our cheeks, and our merriment was issued a sudden, serious pause. One we loved well is gone. He is completely at rest. Completely. He's at the fullest possible rest in the welcoming and warm arms of his Father.