Dear Dan Hosey [and all the friends I think of just as much]

[every time I try to write this, I cry. perhaps it's not quite time yet.]

I looked up the stages of grief on Saturday, the day after I heard the news. I wondered why I was feeling so sad, a little angry, and a sense of relief. All at the same time.

Sad for a friend who I've missed and loved, and who's now gone.

A brief wave of anger at how it happened (but not angry at you).

Relief seeded in gratitude that I'm still here. That I'm still plodding along on this journey that is my life.

In the middle of July, Jake played for a trombone recital at OCU. When he told me about it, I thought, "Trombone recital? Is there really enough trombone repertoire outside of marching band arrangements to fill a whole recital?" Not far into the first piece, I realized I was in the audience of what would be one of my favorite recitals, and it ended up being full of interesting pieces. I was thinking about Dan, wishing he was there, and thinking about clever things to say in the message I was going to send telling him all about it.

In the midst of packing and preparing to move out of our home and halfway across the country, sending the message was pushed to the back burner, but not sending it and meaning to kept Dan on my mind.

Whenever I move to a new place, it always makes me nostalgic for everywhere I've lived. All the people from those places blend together, so much so that at times I have to do some mental sorting. In doing so, I've realized that the people who seem to be with me everywhere I go are the ones who are most deeply embedded in the fibers that make me who I am. Most of them come from the same time and place in my heart and mind.

The friends I made in high school are Dear Ones to me. It was a time when my friends were overwhelmingly my family. In missing and mourning Dan, I realize I'm also equally missing and feeling lonesome for all of you - for that tender place where childhood and adulthood met and mingled for a while. And when it was time to go our separate ways, we all knew we were leaving the last pieces of our childhood in the care of one another, and lifting up the kind of idealism that exists so magically in young adults. We all emerged with and because we had each other.

I've spent the last ten [almost eleven] years still dreaming the biggest dreams and wanting the very best for you. I've imagined you continually emerging and coming into your own. In this way, you've stayed very present to me. It's helped me deal with your absence from my every day. Part of my sorrow for Dan is that I won't be able to continue imagining him working towards becoming in the same existence as my own. I need all of you to be here because you all have a role in my story, and taking any of you out of where my story may go feels devastating to the plot. Part of me still needs to pretend like I'll randomly run into you somewhere. I'll grab your hands and listen to your voice and make a new memory of your face. And that will carry my imagination through the next decade.

I've been living in my memory these last few days. I know you have too. Last night, I woke up several times, opened my eyes, and was sure I would see you. I've been reveling in our collective memories of Dan because they're also my memories with you. Who he is to us is who you are to me. I've also been dwelling on the times when it was just Dan and me. I asked him to help me with math my senior year. I was a horrible tutee...

[so, I may or may not have just spent several moments laughing at the word tutee. It seems perfectly appropriate.]

Ahem, I was a horrible pupil, and Dan a wonderful teacher. What I really loved was sitting next to my friend at the table and all of the conversational asides between math problems. I especially loved one night at his mom's house. Both sisters were there, and Kim had just had David. That night, I enjoyed talking with them and holding David. This part's a bit fuzzy, but I think David threw up all over me. I've been praying for his family. My heart especially hurts for his mother.

Between our tutoring sessions and random drives (I always did the driving because he lost driving privileges after he had a horrible one-car accident after swerving to miss a coyote while driving in the triple digits. Horrible for a car and for driving privileges, but he walked away), some tender secrets were shared, and it's strange to think that I may still be the sole keeper.

I can't imagine Dan not making his way into the heart of anyone who knew him. You can't make up a character like him. His everyday life was repeatedly full of impossibles. If you're reading this and didn't know Dan, another friend from this time and place wrote something that captures him perfectly. You can read Nathaniel's piece here: Ode to Dhosey. I've never met anyone else like him, and I can't imagine that I ever will.

In thinking about Dan and all of my Dear Ones, part of James Agee's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 comes to mind. It's appropriately at the beginning of his autobiographical novel A Death in the Family:
On the rough wet grass of the backyard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there. First we were sitting up, then one of us lay down, and then we all lay down, on our stomachs, or on our sides, or on our backs, and they have kept on talking. They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.
After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.
I'm grateful that by some chance I was able to share the equivalent of nights spent on quilts under the stars with all of you.

And because I can't see/hear a trombone and not think of Dan - If Dan would have been a farmer...


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