Today was my friend Joe’s birthday.
At least it used to be. Joe passed after a long and arduous battle with cancer last Fourth of July. He never liked to do anything in a small way so it seemed fitting that the day he chose to leave this world was one in which he could exit with fireworks.
I was reminded of his birthday this morning on Facebook.
Not that I would have forgotten. While our lives had taken different trajectories in recent years, the two days we were always certain to talk was on our respective birthdays. We were those kinds of friends. The kind you make when you are young enough and foolish enough to think you might live forever. The kind that no matter how long it’s been since last you talked, when you pick up the phone it feels like it was just yesterday. The kind that no matter what, remembers to call and wish you a happy birthday.
Except this year, for the first time I can’t do that.
I’m missing that conversation. I’m missing him.
I’m missing my friend with the smiling Irish eyes who took pleasure in making everyone around him smile. Who loved to tell jokes that somehow made you laugh even when they weren’t funny. Who loved his family and friends, especially his wife and his boys. Who knew what it meant to be in the moment and relish the joy. Who was always the last one to leave the party.
Except for this one. This one he left too soon.
I know I’m not alone today.
His Facebook page is proof. New posts filled with love and remembrance for the bright light he was. You see you couldn’t be Joe’s friend and not have at least one story to remind you how lucky you were to have known him.
That’s life in the digital age.
We are reminded of birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, births and now deaths.
Joe would make a joke about that. He would notice as I have that Facebook seems more mercenary than usual today – suggesting I give Joe a Starbucks card for his birthday when he would rather a beer and a good party. He would question as I do if they’re tracking our actions so well how did they not notice his inactivity the past eleven months or at least remember Joe didn’t drink coffee. He drank tea and not the fancy herbal kind Starbucks sells.
I always tell people that they need to think before they post.
Because once it’s out there, it lives forever.
Kind of like Joe.
Happy Birthday, my friend. I’ll be raising a glass in your honor today!