I attended the funeral of a friend last Friday. He was found dead a little over a week before the funeral. I first found out from a friend in law enforcement. Soon thereafter, I got a message from PM's wife asking me why there were police vehicles and an ambulance outside his house.
The initial rumor was that D had taken his own life. Then the longer things drug out with no obituary, folks wondered if the police were investigating the circumstances of his death. Maybe both rumors were true. I did not ask at the visitation. I didn't ask anybody after the funeral. It was pretty obvious that D had met a bad end whatever it was that caused his death.
I had known D for at least 15 years. We sang in the church choir together and we both quit singing at about the same time. Our interaction after our choir days was mainly whenever I saw him out in his garden while I was out running. D and his wife were (are in his wife's case) master gardeners. And D was always out working his flowers in the Spring and Summer.
I would invariably stop and we would shoot the bull. D was a quiet, soft-spoken man. He had a dry sense of humor that occasionally boiled over into the absurd. We talked about the usual stuff guys talk about: politics, women, real estate, sports. Sometimes he would invite me to smell a new plant or flower that he was particularly proud of. Sometimes he would take it upon himself to point out something in the flora that abounded in his back or side yard that especially delighted him. He knew that I didn't know much about the subject and he always explained things without the slightest whiff of condescension.
I only saw him mad once. Somebody had snuck over in the night and stole a bunch of plants from his side yard. It wasn't just the loss of the plants that irked him. He told me that he would have given some to the thief if he or she had wanted them that badly. He just couldn't comprehend how someone could be so lowdown as to steal flowers from a person's yard.
From all outward appearances, D was a content man. He and N seemed to have a good marriage. They enjoyed being Grandparents. They didn't seem to want for money. D had retired from the food service industry and had started a second career as a CEO for a local food bank. As far as I know, he didn't have an enemy on this planet. If I heard the phrase "he was such a nice man" once in the last week, I heard it at least ten more times.
And that is what is so disconcerting about his death, apart from the fact that he's gone that is. You wouldn't expect somebody as beloved, gentle and kind to meet a bad end. That shouldn't happen to people like him.
But we all have our problems. And you know as well as I that we all have a face and a persona for public consumption that is sometimes at odds with those problems. Most of the time it is because it is nobody else's business. Not that anybody really cares anyway. But sometimes we use our public face because we don't want to let on that things are not as they may seem.
His wife told me after the funeral that I should always look for D in the garden as I run past the house. Because he always be there among the flowers that he loved so much and cared for so well.
But I will miss him in the flesh as well. I last saw him a couple of weeks ago pulling weeds in the side yard. I hollered at him as I went past. He hollered back at me. Business as usual.
Now he's gone. And I will never be able to look at that house in the same way ever again.