To Cain

I still can’t quite believe that you’re gone. I’d always thought that we would meet up again some time in the future if I were ever in Vancouver, or maybe in China again, or wherever our paths might have crossed in this world in the future, as people do.

You were always kind. Always. I’ve never heard you speak uncharitably of someone. You were probably one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. You were certainly one of the most earnest and honest – so much so that I didn’t really know what to make of you at first, and for a long time. I remember the night I first met you, you were so different, and everything that came out of your mouth was so serious and almost uncomfortably heartfelt that I didn’t know what to make of it, because most people aren’t like that. I remember you telling me that your parents had named you Cain after Cain in the bible because they thought God had been unfair to Cain, and I remember thinking that anecdote seemed to perfectly sum you up in a way I couldn’t quite explain. I still feel that.

The more I got to know you, the longer we were friends, the more I realized that you really were just one of those people who seemed incapable of being false or insincere. When you were, you seemed ill at ease, uncomfortable. You seemed to deeply mean everything you said, and the things you said were always life-affirming, thoughtful, and heartfelt. You had a way of speaking that made me feel like I was of value, that I mattered in this world, that I was a force of good. I have no doubt you also made your students feel this way, which is perhaps one of the most important things a teacher can do for a student. Almost every conversation I had with you were conducted in terms that were epic and philosophical and metaphysical that it bordered on being humorous; it was almost funny how incredibly sincere you always were, how holistic and interconnected your worldview was.

I wish I had told you more what a talented writer you were. I remember reading the beginning of your novel, and listening to all the writing pieces you’d share during our little writing group meetings. Your writing was so distinctly you, so bursting with life and intensity that it felt like you had poured absolutely everything about yourself in your writing, and I remember how I had envied your ability to be so unafraid and unfiltered on paper.

These past few days, I keep remembering things about you, conversations we had, the way you looked when you were happy or sad about something. I remember the long walk we took along the boardwalk that night in those last few days in China when almost everyone had left for the summer already. I am grateful for that memory and for all the things you shared with me about your life. If there had to be a last memory, I am glad that that was ours.

You were a good man and a good friend, probably a better friend to me than I was to you. I wish I had been a better friend. I wish what happened hadn’t happened. I wish I had made it more clear to you that you were of value, that you mattered in this world and in my life, and that you were a force of good in this world.

I don’t know if there is an afterlife, and I can’t remember if you believed in one, but it seems like something you would’ve believed in. I hope that wherever you are, you are at peace.

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