Mostly because the anagram (is that the right word?) is RIP which just doesn't seem like a sympathetic word in the first place. But also, they're not resting. They're not in their body. Their soul is gone from this world, and has moved on from it. Unless you believe that their energy is haunting a part of our world and can't leave for one reason or another. But I hate going down the road of what people believe, because a lot of the time people don't believe in anything, and that literally breaks my heart. NOT the point of this post, however.
Last week, I got about three phone calls in 30 minutes from high school friends. The first one was telling me that someone we graduated with, had died earlier that day. The name was familiar to me, in fact more familiar than the caller may have known, and at first my thoughts were,
"Someone is playing a prank on facebook, there is no way that this is true. Joe is such a great kid, nothing bad could possibly happen to him. Who thinks this is funny that they can put something online and people think it's true?"
When what really had happened, is an old friend of mine had indeed passed away. It doesn't matter how, because he was still very young and a very good person, and had a lot of friends who will miss him dearly.
The next two phone calls were asking how I was doing and if I had known him well, something about the wake, I honestly can't tell you what was said but I completely appreciated those who had called. One of which we haven't spoken as often as I would like to, and we were extremely close in high school. Seems like a trivial thing to some, but the friends that you have when you're young and becoming who you are, will never ever be forgotten and mean so much.
Some of us, like myself, have a hard time comprehending a situation when it first occurs. When my great grandparents died, I was the only one in the family that could keep it together, because it hadn't hit me yet mostly. I ended up doing both of their eulogies and mourning a few months later when I really understood they were most certainly gone.
My brain couldn't wrap around the fact that Joe's death was a true statement, and maybe chose not to believe it, despite the fact that I later showed up to a campfire where many old faces were drinking and mourning, smoking and crying, but I still wasn't that upset. I was bewildered, mostly. Didn't think it was really happening. Then Sunday morning in church when Pastor Cliff had said, "The funeral looks like it will be Thursday for Joey..." I looked at my friends sitting next to me and at that moment I said,
"Well this just became very real"
and started bawling my eyes out.
Is it selfish of me to be upset? I don't think so. But I tried so hard to hold back my tears almost telling myself they were unjustified. He left behind a sister and a mother, and friends who payed much more attention to him lately than I have, and I had the gall to mourn him, or have it still. But I couldn't hold back, either. I'm avidly praying for him and his family, and for his family to have comfort in this time of distress. I'm even praying for our friends that don't particularly believe in anything, because sometimes they take death the hardest out of anyone, not that it's somehow any less hard to deal with if you do in fact believe in the afterlife.
When I was 13, almost ten years ago, I met Joe Vangos at church. We were both young, making friends, and attended youth group together (though I think his sister was a more avid attendee, and I was always a bit closer with her). I remember Joey and I laughing together, sharing stories, sharing thoughts we both had on prayer and God in our very young minds, and just how much of a happy kid he was. I don't think I ever saw him without a smile on his face. We learned how to hang sheetrock together, played instruments (badly) together, and as we grew older and I moved away to college and other places, I came home to see friends and he was there. I would see him at Christmas service or at the Hotel Vernon, and as we'd catch up again there was that smile. Never a disappointment and he was glad to see you and ask how your life was going.
So when it finally set in my brain that this person was gone, even today almost a week later, I don't really want to believe it. There are other friends and family members who are closer to him now/lately than I have been, but at one time we were just a couple of kids together, trying to figure ourselves out. But it's real. I heard from a few people in the past,
That's how you know you're an adult, is when your friends all start getting married, and then one by one they all start dying. I go to to a funeral every couple of years.
So maybe this is a part of life that I haven't been prepared to deal with. But can any of us truly prepare to deal with it? Any of us could go tomorrow, right? A car wreck, sickness, freak brain embolism, getting lost in the woods, choking on your morning breakfast... not to say we should all live in fear, but I suppose the only solution for yourself would be to (quoting a country song) live like you were dying.
I hope that's not a cheesy philosophy. But maybe Joe would've wanted that. His relentlessly smiling demeanor would have wanted that. We could all use a hug right now....
... and Joey gave the best hugs.
I don't typically get many comments on here, but comment if you have a nice memory of our friend.