Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Each one as if it were your last

Have you ever been going about your business - driving in your car, shopping, whathaveyou - when you see someone and you say "Hey, there's ol' whatshisface!"? I do that all the time. Usually, it's that person. Occasionally, it's just someone who looks a whole lot like them. I did that the other day, driving back from Walmart. I looked over in the truck beside me and my mind said "Hey, that's Chad". But, right on the heels of that was "No - no, it can't be, you dummy". Chad's been gone for three years. I still do that though. For a long time after he was gone, I saw his face everywhere. Every time I saw one of the trucks from the business he worked for, I hoped it would be him. It's funny how the mind tries to deny a loss in little ways like that. I'll never forget the last time I saw him. (Well, I guess that would be the next-to-last time.) He came by late one night. It was around midnight, I was in my pjs, ready for bed. I was tired and didn't invite him in. He was just coming by to tell me that he was going to be on the road again for a while, had a rodeo to be at in Del Rio and then on to San Antonio and who knows where else. I said the usual be carefuls and have fun. He said he'd see me when he got back. That weekend I was at work on the nightshift at the hospital. When I answered the phone and it was my cousin, I knew something was wrong when she said hello. She went on to tell me that Chad had been in an accident between Del Rio and San Antonio earlier in the night. I was instantly filled with dread. My heart sank further and further as she went on to say that the ambulance picked him up from that road in the middle of nowhere and they took him to the hospital but after working on him for hours they just couldn't get him back. When she said that, my heart stopped sinking and was just.... numb. I thought maybe she had it wrong. Small town grapevines aren't always accurate. In the back of my head, I knew it was true. I just didn't want to admit it. I'd lost many friends in the same way. Chad was special and his loss hit especially hard. He wasn't a big guy but he had a big personality. He was on his way to becoming a big star in the PRCA in bronc riding. The funeral was ... well, it was indescribable. Sure, I could tell you what it looked like, what they said and the music they played, and who was there. But, the feeling... I can't put that into words. It was huge. The emotion was so strong it was as if you could reach out and grab a handful of it out of the air. The thought that kept going through my mind was the scant few nights before. When he was standing on my front steps, in the glow of the porch light. I learned the lesson of treating every goodbye as if it were the last. Because... it very well could be. I had forgotten about that. I won't forget again.

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