As I posted prior, last weekend I lost a good friend. My friend Dan died unexpectedly on a Saturday afternoon of a heart attack.
This weekend was full of memorials and tributes. On Saturday a memorial was held at the United Methodist Church in Shadyside. Everyone’s words were heartfelt. There were sweet moments with funny stories from his closest friends and fiancee, and moments that brought me to tears. Dan’s best friend’s wife read a statement contributed by Dan’s family. The memorial was livestreamed for everyone in Easton and abroad who could not attend. After the speeches I got one of the best hugs ever from my friend sitting next to me. It was nice to have someone who is a new friend with a big heart embrace you fully. I knew I was in good company.
There was a good turn out. People who likely hadn’t seen each other since the dispersal of the Occupy camp in Pittsburgh greeted each other warmly, if not with sad condolences as well.
After the speaking portion of the memorial, there was a potluck. My friend Eric made wonderful brownies with peanut butter chips. I made a big old pan of lasagna. (I’m Italian, it’s what we do in times of grief.)
We shared stories and smiled and laughed. It ended in a good place.
I went to a friend’s house for the evening. We celebrated in his honor. There was discussion, drinking, dancing, singing, music making, and silly videos. All things I think would have definitely been given the Dan Lichten seal of approval.
Today was the memorial tribute at People’s Park, the park where the Pittsburgh Occupy movement camped. I regret that I arrived late, but I got there in time to see them light a lantern that drifted off into the dusky sky… and almost land on a cop car.
There were beautiful flowers left on the fence to honor Dan and another Occupy comrade who had recently passed.
It was too cold to stay and light candles, so the memorial dispersed. The group I was with didn’t want to go home so quickly, so we went to Primanti’s in Market Square for some warmth and a bite.
I’ve been wracking my brain for a summary. There really isn’t a nice tidy one. It’s a complex set of emotions. I feel guilt for not being more present in my friends life on his last days, when I knew that he often felt lonely and friendless. I feel sadness that he never got the chance to be all the things that I saw the potential for in him. I feel angry that his addictions took such a toll on his body at such an early age, causing everyone in his life, friends and family, to lose such a charismatic, loving person. I find myself reminded of him, and my loss, in music and moments. I find myself thinking, “What would Dan say about this?” Which turns out to be an interesting way to judge events. He had such a clear, outspoken voice, which I openly envy.
I’m reminded of a lot of little memories. I’m reminded of the time I cooked for the chef, himself, when he and Sharon came over my house. He couldn’t help but participate, but he was so appreciative that someone cooked for him. “No one ever cooks for me,” he told me. Wearing the sweater he gave me on a typical Pittsburgh day that had gone from Summer warmth to Autumn chill in a matter of hours, I was reminded of when he told me my apartment needed “a woman’s touch”. I remembered the video of him during Pittsburgh’s Pride march, where he kept messing with megaphone of the religious zealots, interrupting their hate speech. I remembered how he noticed when I wore make up. I laughed to myself about the time I had been standing on his porch in a shadow and made him jump when the motion sensor turned on the light. I thought about the way he used to read me when I thought I was being subtle and coy.
I feel closer to the new amazing people in my life. I take away from this that it is never too early or too soon to tell people that you love them. Say it when they are leaving. Hug them before they go. You honestly don’t know when it will be the last time you are with them. Make time for the people that matter, because being “too busy” for someone that you love and losing them makes you feel like shit.
I took the picture given to me at the memorial and put it with my father’s photo in my little cluster of personal photographs. I don’t think I could ever classify those two men as guardian angels, but if the spirit lives on after the body, I would be honored to have Dan in my corner.