Four weeks ago, one my oldest friends past away. His passing was sudden, shocking, and completely unexpected.This weekend a celebration of his life was hosted by his friends in New Orleans. A toasting and sending off to a wonderful friend and person we all loved so much. We laughed, we cried, we danced in the streets.
We told stories about the person we all loved so very much, many of us meeting for the very first time. We shared our memories, the good times, the bad times, and the humor in all times. Forrest was one of my oldest and most dear friends. His life was filled with laughter and joy. He had the ability to never take any situation all too seriously and could find humor in any situation, especially the awkward ones, a quality that I will always fiercely admire.
We knew each other long before those awkward adolescent years, and remained friends through out college and the years that followed. I'm hesitant to say adult years, as I think he'd find me calling either of us an adult positively hysterical.We grew up together, our families are friends, and our relationship always felt very natural and easy, moving from one life stage to the next.
I always knew Forrest had lots of friends, he was one of these people who befriended everyone he came into contact with. From a very young age, he flawlessly bridged social gaps, completely unrestricted by normal characteristics that historically bind together groups of people: age, sex, race, social standing, varied un-mainstream interests, political and religious beliefs. He had friends from all walks of life. He was never intimidated by social norms or put off by closed social groups. He never hesitated to walk into a group of strangers and introduce himself. He was very confident at every age, and I often enjoyed allowing his confidence to rub off on me. Especially during those awkward adolescent years. I was too tall, too awkward, too self conscience, and far too overly concerned with whether or not other people liked me, normal fears for pre-teen/teen-age girls. He encouraged me to accept myself, and shed the fears of I wonder what others think of me. I can always remember his attitude being, "You're awesome, if someone doesn't like you, they obviously have a problem. Fuck em! Let's go do something fun!"
He had an infectious laugh and bright spirit, it was impossible to feel down around him. For all the times I felt young, care free, clue-lessly whateve in his company, I always knew he was a deep thinker and intelligent soul.There were often times when I felt he was so much older and wiser than me, and I was grateful for his wisdom. For many years, I was very naive about life, and all of the characters in it. Forrest had the ability to see through the bull shit and give you what was real. He didn't sugar coat reality for me, and I loved that about him.
Forrest was realistic, and unafraid to straight shoot the truth. His honesty was often disarming, but always refreshing. He was continuously teaching me things about myself, and those around me. We frequently discussed how to achieve great personal success (an aspiration we both always shared), how we defined our personal successes, our hopes and dreams for the future, and what path we wanted to carve for ourselves along this crazy little road called life. I envisioned him a world traveler, a passionate lover, an aficionado in various arenas, a man who would have a life filled with wild stories and great adventures. Even with his life cut so very short, I believe he was all of those things.
As often as we laughed, he was always comfortable with the heavy not so pleasant conversations as well. He knew dark things about me, things that I've done, things I'm ashamed of, he could keep these secrets in confidence and never threw any of my mistakes back up at me. I was never embarrassed to confide some insignificant detail of my life to him. He talked me though heart aches and failure, he was the type of person you could count on to be there for you when all your ugly shit really hit the fan. There isn't a thing in this world I wouldn't have done for him. He was a confidante and dear friend. To say I loved him deeply feels like a shallow understatement.
Over the more recent years, we hadn't spent as much time together as I would have liked. He attended school in New York, his family had moved away, he moved frequently, and our visits became sparse. For my part, nothing ever really changed in my life. After high school, I went to college, got married, and set up a life in our home town. I followed the generic life plan for the stereotypical southern girl. I wasn't always certain that my life would follow this path, even though deep down the life I have now is what I have always longed for, stereotypical normalcy. I can recall a conversation we shared regarding the future. We were 18, I had just had my heart broken, for what felt like the millionth time, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life professionally, and I was deeply concerned I would never truly be happy. Alone or with someone else for that matter. Forrest was unyielding in his confidence that I was wrong in my assessment of my life. I remember him telling me with a laugh, When do you ever not get exactly what you want?
Forrest freely popped in on me unexpectedly, "Hey I'm in town, what are you doing? Something with me? Awesome, I'm coming over" He always knew he was welcome in my family home. Come over, pour a drink, tell me what's troubling you, what have you been doing?! No invitation was ever necessary. He gave the warmest hugs and no matter how much time past between our visits, we were always able to pick right back up where we left off. As if not one beat in time had been missed. I cherished our friendship and the unconditional love we shared between one another. I will miss his smiling face, giant laugh, and his attitude towards all of life's challenges he fearlessly faced. I know with confidence he would have loved the celebration we had in his honor. It was so just all very Fork.
I attended his Life Celebration with my husband and very dear friend, and I'm left looking at these people in my life that I love so very much. I'm reminded how short, precious, and fleeting life truly is. Things that are so insignificant, like pant sizes, and run times, don't define us. The people we love, who color our lives with joy, are the most important aspects to cherish in life. I count myself so fortunate to be blessed with so many people who love all aspects of the real me. These close personal relationships are not easy to come by. They take time, trust, mutual respect, and hardships faced to solidly build, making them all the more simplistic in their imperfect perfection, but at the root they are based in solid love.
If Forrest's early departure from this world has taught me anything, it's to love and support one another in all things. I endeavor to support his memory and live more fearlessly, taking time to appreciate all the little moments with loved ones, and shake off the set backs. Cherish the time you do have, because you never know when the clock will run out.
Good bye my friend, I will always love you.