2018/10/09

Memento Mori

80s arcade
But that was long ago, and in another country.
The world has a way of giving notice in no uncertain terms that life is temporary, and time is always bearing us toward its inevitable end. During the ride we pass certain milestones that remind us the clock is ticking.

In the old days in the old country, they'd put up roadside shrines displaying the bones of the saints as memento mori. In these more enlightened times, we have to settle for abstract government studies and actuarial tables. The lack of immediacy lulls us into thinking of death as something that happens to other people. Among the many demerits of Modernism is its tendency to set us up for sucker punches when reality barges into our materialist fools' paradise.

Few events give us pause to reflect on our mortality more than the death of a childhood friend. Seeing the clock run out on someone about your age reminds you the hour is later than you think. Realizing that someone who shared a significant portion of your life is out of the picture for good is a sobering wake up call death has no exceptions--especially not you.

In my tender years an older kid from the neighborhood took me under his wing. His dubious influence had a major hand in defining who I am to this day. He was in high school while I was in grade school, and he was one of those guys who's allergic to idleness. It seemed like he was always on the move in search of something new to keep him interested. In effect, he was more like a big brother away at school most of the time who'd roll into town on odd weekends with some fresh mischief up his sleeve.

What would happen is this guy would show up, and before you knew it you'd be deep in conversation about the sorts of questions that kept kids in the 80s awake at night. Did Darth Vader eat solid food, or did his diet consist solely of V8 and Ensure? Why don't Autobots ever use energon cubes? Do Freddy Krueger and David LoPan have the same curse?

When these mysteries had been plumbed as deeply as current scholarship allowed, he'd start walking, expecting you to follow without a word. And you'd definitely follow, if only out of burning curiosity over whatever was coming next. The day's activity could be as mundane as helping him collect on his paper route; reading off addresses while the 80s pop culture discussion continued. Or, on the other extreme, you could find yourself in a real-life, though nonlethal, version of Saw.

I fondly remember the time another young friend and I escaped from a cluttered garage booby-trapped with pull-string firecrackers, using only our wits. Our older friend, who'd meticulously prepared the surprise obstacle course, had taken off to a nearby gas station and returned with a bagful of chips, soda, and candy bars at the exact moment we made it out. I still have no idea how he timed it so precisely. I do know the sugary, salty feast was more than worth our inconvenience.

Usually, though, video games were the order of the day. My friend was a big fan of single-player action games and RPGs, so he'd have me navigate from the Nintendo Power map while he played. It was monumentally more fun than it sounds. I knew he didn't need my help, so it felt good to be asked to help anyway. And just watching him play was a genuine thrill. The man was an artist. A rumor making the rounds back then had it that he'd applied to be an official Nintendo game counselor. Apparently they'd turned him down only because those guys were a pretty small, tight-knit group with super low turnover. But I have no doubt he'd have made the cut on merit.

Cold winter's days holed up in his cramped upstairs room playing Metroid, summer nights camping out in the back yard, fall afternoons tromping over crisp dead leaves on after-school walks while he regaled me with the plots of horror movies I was too young to see--they're all among my most cherished childhood memories.

The last time I saw my friend was over twenty-five years ago. Finding out he'd died recently came as a shock, to say the least. At first my mind jumped to the usual suspects: heart attack; cancer. Unlikely. My friend was a Gen Xer who'd just recently entered middle age. Suspicion shifted to common banes of white, working-class men in his cohort: alcoholism, overdose, suicide. Doubtful, unless the slow grinding of years had utterly worn down his passion for life. Must have been a car crash.

Wrong.

My friend, my long lost big brother, suffered fatal trauma in the predawn hours during what looks to have been a burglary gone awry. He lived in a somewhat down-at-heel neighborhood in an overwhelmingly white area, so a meth-head desperate for a fix seemed a good bet. Then I heard they found my friend's stolen car abandoned miles away in the really bad part of town. The neighbors have nothing but good things to say about the deceased, but they're afraid to comment further. He lived among people like himself, but diversity found him, even though it had to drive twenty minutes across town.

Take warning.

34 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Sincere thanks for your sympathy.

      Let us, though, be precise in our speech. A natural disaster is a tragedy. This is a crime.

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  2. I recently had to move back to the ghetto town I grew up in, and it's far worse than when I left it. I come home to strange kids walking up and down the sidewalk after midnight with their hands in their pockets. Times are getting tough, and people are looking for a demon to blame, and the news media is all to happy to show them who that demon is...

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  3. Strange you post this since I just learned the mother of one of my old friends (a friend who died a few years ago) just died herself last week and her funeral is this Saturday.

    I think a similar wake up call is if you can look back on a time when you were in a room with 3-4 other people and realize that none of them are alive any more. Puts existence in perspective when you are the last person who will remember an event that will be rubbed out of earthly memory when you go.

    It's later than you think. Huddling behind plastic Star Wars lightsabers and boilerplate social justice platitudes won't save you. Wake up, or waste what little time you have left.

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    1. We're in total agreement. Thank God I have not yet experienced being the last bearer of a shared childhood memory. But the shadows lengthen.

      Eternal memory.

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  4. I haven't quite started losing friends or brothers, but grandparents, and now parents, especially as of very recently, yes.

    I am sorry for your loss at such a senseless crime.

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    1. You have my thanks. May God grant your departed loved ones eternal rest.

      As for the crime in question, I'm not telling all I know. There are hints of a more deliberate and sinister motive. Time will tell.

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  5. Incredibly saddened and angered to read this Brian. He sounded like a great man. God bless him and his family.

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    1. Thanks, but if it makes you feel better, this post wasn't meant as a hagiography. The obituary suggests my friend fell into the spiritual pitfalls that beset his more cynical generation. People are messy, and friendships can be complex. But that's the spice of life. I know you're a praying man, so please consider putting a word in for him with the Man Upstairs tonight.

      I used to wonder, and still do, if my friend knew what an impact he had on my life. I doubt it. He was just wiling away a few spare hours in between his many other pursuits giving a lonely and socially awkward kid a break. We never know what effect our words and deeds will have on others.

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    2. That is the importance of community. Most of us have no idea how important we are to others unless we are told, and the further we drift apart the less likely it is that it will happen. A man without a life-vest will sink to the bottom of the sea, alone and scared. It's up to the lifeboats to prevent that.

      But this is Current Year, so it is what it is.

      I will pray for your friend, and hope he now knows what impact he had on others. It's my greater wish that more realize it before the hour grows too late.

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    3. Well said. Though this blog is only a virtual community, I value all of you.

      Thank you for your prayers.

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  6. Sorry for your loss, Brian. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiéscat in pace. Amen.

    We’re about the same age. I’ve lost friends to suicide, overdose, car accidents and aneurysm, but crime. May the deceased and his family get justice and the criminal his due reward. And this is a good warning. Just because you don’t live in diversity doesn’t mean it won’t hop the wall and come to you.

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    1. Gratias.

      Thanks for praying for my friend. I will pray for yours.

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  7. I'm sorry your friend is gone from this earth. I'll say a prayer for him.

    Let's hope this crime is punished.

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  8. Brian,

    My condolences for your loss I sympathize with your loss as my brother to a heart attack due to an undiagnosed condition. I miss him and realize how much he made me a better brother.
    I'll offer a prayer to your friend and his family and that the murderer get justice and repent.
    Perhaps that'll be your friend's most enduring legacy:that the bad thief become like St Dismas.
    xavier

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  9. I'm sad to say I know how you feel. A few years ago, my best friend was murdered. Police are quite certain his ex-wife was responsible but haven't been able to secure sufficient evidence to prosecute. In the meantime, his two kids are being raised by his killer and his family are completely shut out of their lives.

    Even though we hadn't spoken for so long, I always took comfort in knowing he was out there and that we'd get back in touch someday, and when that's taken away you never get over it.

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    1. Lord, please grant Andy's friend eternal happiness in your kingdom. Deliver his children from harm. Grant his family and friends consolation, and let his murderer receive justice and the grace of repentance. In Jesus' name we pray.

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    2. Thank you. I remembered you and your friend in my prayers this morning as well.

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  10. May the Lord accept his soul and watch over his family. May his friends find comfort in their memories of him, and may the Lord's justice find the murderer; above all, His will be done. Amen.

    Prayers for you. I lost contact with just about everyone I knew as a child, so I haven't had to deal with this particular brand of tragedy just yet. I lost friends and acquaintances from the Corps, but that's more to be expected (though no less tragic).

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  11. There's a lot of sadness there. And a lot of injustice. There's not a single person involved who doesn't owe some part of their role to the grand experiment of modernism, or post-modernism, or whatever it is when self-appointed princes "improve" peoples and nations.

    Purposelessness is an improvement, joblessness an improvement, lawlessness an improvement; we're all so very, very improved.

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    1. Let no one doubt that this sort of sadness and injustice is exactly the outcome TPTB want and have worked diligently toward. Some say our elites want to turn American into Brazil. That's giving them too much credit. They want to turn it into South Africa. My friend was just ahead of the curve.

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    2. If you read Ship of Fools, bringing the whole society to ruin to settle some grudges is exactly what culturally primitive, emotive people do over and over. The nationalism so many rail against was an advanced, pacifistic and unusual human institution, where people specifically held off their grudges and revenge taking in the name of something bigger. The radical left rediscovered the stone-age when they started their program of smashing people-groups together in their fervor for revenge against the West. This "any ally but my neighbour" nonsense is just another reversion to pre-civilized normality. South Africa isn't a goal so much as an advanced, probably irreversible and terminal, case.

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    3. There's an argument to be made that the UK's immigration crisis was deliberately engineered by the Labour Party out of resentment for the plebs electing Thatcher. The Conservative establishment has been more than willing to go along with the scheme.

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    4. I would say that argument is a very solid theory, given recorded quotes about "rubbing the right's face in diversity".

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  12. Sorry to hear about your friend Brian. People dying of illness, bad lifestyle choices or in accidents is tragic. People being senseless killed is enraging.
    God speed.

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