Missed opportunities and the loss of a friend
“I saw him only a few days ago. I wish I had given him a hug.”
Trying to console her, I told Kim that she couldn’t possibly go through her life hugging every friend she sees on the street with the thought that she might not see them again.
Even though she was preaching to the choir, Kim felt a need to explain why she didn’t hug Brad.
“I was talking on my cell,” she said. “He walked by ” he looked busy, too. I waved; he patted me on the shoulder, smiled, and he walked on. I should have hung up that stupid phone and said hello.”
Part of the tragedy of having a young friend die suddenly is the fact that, well, they die suddenly. With an elderly or ailing friend, parent or spouse, you are somewhat forewarned and tend to make peace, find closure and grant attention and affection. With someone as young, vibrant and healthy as Brad, it is easy to put off your kindness for a day when you have the time and energy.
Not that I can ever imagine Kim withholding kindness; she is one of the most giving people I know. But like all of us, she balances work, family and social obligations and cannot possibly find time to give everyone she cares about her undivided attention every moment of every day.
We had a much-beloved young man meet his untimely death last week: an artist, a kind man and, I’m told, a good friend to the fortunate few who knew him well. For those closest to him, and even those of us who knew him only casually, it was a sad day. Like Kim, I found myself wishing that I had reached out a little more to him while he lived, but who could have known?
I would imagine that those who called him a close friend were most pained by his passing. But I would also guess that they were the same people who had taken the time to regularly display their feelings. For the rest of us, there is that sense of loss and also one of lost opportunity to get to know a person who was worth knowing well.
Obviously, you can’t go through your life hugging everyone you care about as if you will never see them again. But I do believe that we would all be better served if we better balanced our perceived obligations with our tender inclinations; I’ve never offered or received a kind word and regretted it.
If you don’t have the time or proclivity to grope every good person you see, you can still make eye contact, give them some attention and, if the situation is right, offer a gentle word.
Last week I had a co-worker tell me that she enjoys working with me because I don’t get mad at her when things beyond her control go wrong. She shyly said that as we both walked out the front door of the studio. As you might imagine, only an idiot would blame anyone for something that was totally beyond their control. So essentially, my co-worker was thanking me for not being an idiot. That said, her simple gesture made my day.
Like Kim, I wish I had reached out more to that brilliant man who we all will miss. But I also wish I could suppress my sense of self-importance on a daily basis and say kind words to all my friends and acquaintances when kind words are called for.
Unlike Kim, I am not the hugging type, but I certainly could take the time to remind my mate, friends and associates how I feel about them if only to thank them for not being idiots.
There is no denying that Brad’s work is a worthy legacy to his genius; the bigger question, however, is what happens next. Where is he now? Is life on Earth all we can hope for, or is there a beautiful symmetry of death and rebirth? Hopefully, he is in a heaven-like place that the rest of us can only imagine; a place you could often catch a glimpse of in photographs.
Brad Odekirk will be missed by those who knew him well and those of us who wished we had. The good news is there are many amazing, kind, funny, loving, philanthropic and brilliant men and women still living. And a fitting tribute to Brad would be for all of us to try to make an effort to let them know how we feel and ” if you are not as uptight as me ” give them a hug.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV, heard on KOA radio and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff’s book, “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic,” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.