Tomorrow marks the 3rd anniversary of John’s death. I sit on my back porch enjoying some Lucero on shuffle and a beer. My parents’ air conditioning is broken in a good way meaning it’s over cooling the house on a 90 degree day but it’s an icebox. I need to stay outside as long as I can.

Sitting out here, I wonder what it was that pushed John over the limit this night 3 years ago. What made him die? Was it the pill he wanted so bad? A girl he was trying to impress? A pain so embedded he didn’t understand the consequences? He didn’t know it was a pain he would stop forever for himself and leave the rest of us with. I know with everything I am he didn’t intend to die. He just didn’t know how to live. He had fits and starts but couldn’t make it stick yet.

White collar. Good Irish Catholic family. Devoted to family. Polite, caring with a very awkward humor that made you feel bad for him sometimes which made it funnier. Somehow reduced to wiping out his well earned retirement account and selling his tv for powder. Who introduced him to this exit? I have some ideas. Damn you for that. He was too trusting, too vulnerable. He couldn’t handle that stuff at that point in his life.

I thought after this amount of time there would be days when I wouldn’t think about him. That hasn’t happened yet. He still shows up in my dreams and I am so terribly sad to wake up when he is there. It’s like getting time back and then he dies again every time I wake up. As well as I can articulate my feelings, I don’t have the words for the hole in my soul for him.

I was reminded of him the other night when I was with a snorer….a very dangerous, sleep apnea type of snorer. I remembered the nights I sat up in bed listening to him stop breathing in his sleep and wishing I had forced him to see a doctor. I feel like something wasn’t right with his heart and that his OD might not have happened had I shaken him awake more than once and forced the issue. It’s a secret I live with as very few people, if any, know the intimacies we shared towards the end of his life. He was clinging to me and I failed him.

I don’t know if I believe in an afterlife but I believe he is around me a lot. Despite my having failed him, I swear he follows me to the Cape every weekend. Every Saturday morning I loom out the bathroom window just like I did when I found out he died and decided to take a shower rather than let my parents in on my pain. I saw a cardinal at that moment and I see them every weekend at the Cape. His visiting in dreams, that’s intentional. He is trying to communicate, to check in. He’s been a guiding presence in the many things I have done over the past 3 years to improve my health, mentally and physically, to guard against the type of vulnerability he became susceptible to. At that time, I wasn’t too far from it myself and he was the only one who knew.

So this time 3 years ago, he was still breathing. He was a living, feeling thing. He was someone we all thought we would see again. He was a dear friend whose friendship would have been even stronger if he were still here. There’s no sense to made of his absence. He was the best kind of person. He was rare. He is not found inside the people around us, generally. Completely irreplaceable. All the loved ones thinking of him tonight and what made him lose it. All of us wondering where we took a misstep or looked the other way at the wrong time. All of us who think our loved ones know enough how much they are loved when maybe they don’t. Maybe they don’t know they have something to live for and we keep it a secret.

Since John died, I have made it a point to tell people how I feel even if it’s uncomfortable, raw or delicate. In fact, it’s other people doing that for me who have kept me alive….something none of us could give to him. So, yeah, I think he’s up there making that happen. I think he’s putting these people on my path at the right time because he knows. And to honor him, I honor truth. I live life in full. I love big. Because I loved him something bigger than myself.

Peace, JC…you are never not with me and that’s pretty great company to have even if I can’t touch your face or laugh at you when you tell me I am beautiful.