When I saw the old man lying there, lifeless, I couldn’t help but cry. The purplish age spots on his skin reminded me of my grandfather—and how close the two of them had been. But I didn’t cry out of fear for the loss of my own. No, I cried for the slow and painful death that surrounded the funeral hall. That made the air thick.
I cried because I lost you.
We had been best friends for 13 years, simply brought together by loneliness. I remember that class trip into the big city. We had no one else to sit with, no one else to call “friend”— so they sat you beside me.
It was an instant connection. Years of storytelling and sharing, game nights, sleepovers… The two of us were inseparable— much like our grandfathers, who spent their time together overseas in the war as young men; not much older than ourselves. We, on the other hand, spent our time in dim lit pillow-forts, reciting lines of our latest works in solitary companionship.
We had been through it all. We then went three years without seeing one another. I moved away to the city—then abroad—while you stayed behind. Upon my return, however, it was as though nothing had changed. We were back to our same, youthful selves. Laughing under moonlight, finding our poetry in the stars.
Yet, somehow, somewhere, we drifted apart over recent years. Perhaps it was with the changing of interests and the coming and going of different friend groups. We weren’t alone anymore. We didn’t need each other. You found the good in people while I found the bad, thus solidifying more bricks into the inevitable wall being built between us. But still, I fought to find a hole—a crack—something that I could reach out to you through. In the beginning, I succeeded. But as time crept on, the gaps filled in. Sometimes, I could hear you laughing from the other side—when the wind blew. How much I miss that laugh.
Yet, over time, the silence fell heavy.
And the first message to spark life was the news of death: “Pop passed away last night.”
That was the last time I heard from you.
At the funeral, while the tears pricked at the corners of my eyes, I felt the weight of the brick wall increasing. I felt the tiny string that still held us together slowly snapping; 13 years of trust wearing thin. But it wasn’t you or me who became brave enough to sever the knot. It was the old man lying in the casket that laid the final brick and sealed every last gap shut.
There was no need for niceties anymore. No need for casual conversation. The one thing we had left to talk about had gone. Our grandfathers’ friendship no longer loomed over our heads. After all, we weren’t our grandfathers. We were far from them.
I left without a word. My tears were the only response given to the family I once considered part of my own. And while they assured me he was in a better place and told me it was okay, I knew it wasn’t. There was no better place. The “better place” existed deep in my memories—versions of ourselves that we surely had forgotten, buried deep beneath the wall.
I didn’t cry for the old man. I loved him, certainly, but my tears weren’t for his memory. I cried because I lost you. I knew that when I walked through the doors and left the funeral home, it would be the end. Words would exist no more between us. No more than they existed on the lips of the old man. Than the dead.
And I was right.
I never heard from you again.
Sometimes, when I return to our childhood town, I ride past your old home. I long to find the courage to send you a text or give you a call… But I know they’ll go unanswered. Instead, I make a stop at the cemetery where they put your grandfather to rest. I always bring flowers—white lilies— they were your favourite. My eyes search for the headstone, but I no longer see his name. I only find a marker for you and me.
In Loving Memory 2005 – 2018