Another Friend Dies Too Soon

I’ve had two glasses of wine and three Modelos from the local Mexican eatery. My dear friend Timmy and I attempted to distract ourselves from the pain of a friend gone too soon. Alcohol can numb but not anesthetize – unless you are willing to go one step too many.
I am not.
I would love to use the word surreal, but in recent years it has achieve a status with which I am uncomfortable.
Ellen (McGowan) Slattery is gone. I can’t believe it. Like Melissa Torres before her (most won’t remember sweet Melissa), Ellen has left us due to the vagaries of a ruthless illness.
I rage against it all. I ache against it all and I weep, from the recesses of my soul, against it all.
I would have loved to have known Ellen better, even though we travelled the same road for more about 39 years – almost four decades.
She was our prom queen, Chip’s girlfriend. And for me, a hazy peripheral character in the play of life until we shared a cigarette in Chip and Smitty’s room all those decades ago in Browning Hall. A simple cigarette turned into a conversation of a lifetime.
Within two days – if memory serves – and it fails from time-to-time, Ellen’s lung collapsed in, as near as I can remember, a fall outside the student union. (Admittedly I could be wrong).
Regardless of the details, it was at the moment of hearing Ellen had collapsed her lung, she became real to me in the way people do from time-to-time. I was scared for her and concerned. In some way I guess that moment was a rite of passage from youth to adulthood. It’s odd that way.
I ache today for not having taken the time to know her better.
Had I taken the time, I wonder what advice she would have given me so many years ago. I really do. In retrospect, too late as always, she seems a sage. Perhaps I was too afraid to hear what truths she might have laid at my doorstep. I may have been too afraid to act in accordance with her clear moral compass; mine was not nearly as true as hers.
I get distracted – the collapsed lung.
You see until that conversation in the dorm room she had been Chip’s girl, not a real person; perhaps an object – nothing more. And then it took on substance. She knew my name, knew my interests, and knew I was not just that weird guy from Cranston.
When she got hurt, I ached for her and agonized for Chip. Such is the way of transformations, I guess.
And now ALS has claimed another soul – one I wish I knew better. A soul I wish I had spent time getting to know. I ache. I rage. I am inconsolable.
It’s all so sad, yet instructive. It is –of course – up to each of us to glean the messages Ellen has left for us the way Arne Sacknussem did for Dr. Liddenbrock (too obscure? You’ll figure it out).


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