today has been a strange day. i woke up with anticipatory dreams, verging on psychic predictions–that a phone charger would be left behind on a loved one’s travel, that a conversation with a long-term supporter would address the lessening need for our time together because life and things just continue to get better and better. and in the waiting room, a journal of medicine was resting in the chair next to me, different from the usual copies of AARP. I glanced at the table of contents–new patient-oriented methods, placebo treatments of asthma, and something about leukemia.
i thought of my friend.
it had been a long time since i heard from him, but that was not unusual. for the four and a half years that we have known each other, we didn’t stay in frequent contact, but we were always in touch. little emails here and there, short messages that mostly noted how we wanted to write more letters to one another, how we should have a phone conversation. it was clear that we were frequently thinking of one another, even if we didn’t always communicate those thoughts directly.
the first day.
when we met, we had both traveled from the west to Pennsylvania. i came from Colorado. he flew in from Arizona. i ended up wearing his shirt since my luggage got lost in the Philadelphia airport for days. and we were about the same size. we laid in the grass in front of old main on the campus of Penn State and i confessed that i didn’t know what i was doing at a week-long summer camp for underrepresented people in philosophy. i had only just started studying philosophy, anyway. but there we were, both excited about doing philosophy, graduating, and with hopes of going on to grad school. he noted multiple times in the seminars that he loved the later Wittgenstein. i didn’t even know what that meant. i still don’t.
the first night.
as we were walking with two others to grab a beer at the corner room, i told the others about my nerves around crossing streets. he told me it wasn’t unfounded. his husband was killed just ten months prior from being hit by a car in the cross walk. i remember him telling me how difficult it is to hold the love of your life in your arms knowing that modern medicine can’t put brains back together again. and he said that he never wanted tim to have an ipod in the first place.
each day for the rest of the week, the two of us would wake up before everyone else in the seminars. we would meet in the lounge of the dorms, share milk for our cereal, and talk. we called it our family time.
we made a point to get dinner on our own, just the two of us, for at least one night. i had my first meal at kaarma with him, which, after moving to state college has long been my favorite indian restaurant. he ordered chicken marsala. i don’t remember what i ordered. as we ate, a giant thunderstorm rolled in. i ran barefoot through the rain back to the dorms, dodging lightning amongst the tall elm trees and black chains in the promenade, juggling styrofoam containers filled with our leftovers. the next night we went to dinner again. at the green bowl. as usual, the conversation was lovely. the meal itself, slightly less memorable.
late in the week, he started to get pretty sick. i found him during one afternoon lying on a bench on allen street, outside of chili’s. he said he had been coughing and had a fever, but that it was probably just the flu. we walked across the street, bought him some medicine, hoping he would feel better soon. then the seminars ended, we all flew back home. later on i learned that he had been admitted to the hospital one day later and was diagnosed with leukemia.
my plans for graduate school continued. in the fall i applied to various programs. he had to put it off for a year. and then some. i went to penn state. he stayed in arizona.
the last i heard from him was in a letter that he wrote me, about a year ago i guess. he was excited to be going in for his last rounds of chemo, though weak, he still was biking to every treatment and was committed to keeping it up until the process was over. impressive, yes, but from him, it wasn’t a surprise. over the years he had been through a lot. and his strength seemed unending. like, for instance, when he underwent a bone marrow transplant thanks to donations from his sister, which his body eventually rejected, and still commented on how beautiful life was. he made his friends know that they were loved, and he made lots of people smile.
turns out that as our world keeps spinning, time keeps going, and people don’t just freeze where we left them, only to reanimate the next time that we make contact and be in touch. i thought of him today after seeing the journal of medicine next to me and i thought of writing him a note on facebook to drop a little hello. i was struck by the posts from others on his wall, and it only took a moment to gather that he had died. i scrolled through older posts, from july, from march, from february, only to finally learn that he passed from cancer on january 3, 2011, just days before his 31st birthday. friends are still noting how hopeful they are that he and tim might be together again. and they write about how much they miss him. all the while, i didn’t know precisely how i had missed him.
aeyn edwards truly was one of the most amazing people i’ve ever met. he was an inspiration, a lovely friend, and a blessing to many. he wrote numerous times about looking forward to the time when we would be able to break some bread, share a pint, converse about love and life face to face again. all we ever had in person was that week in 2007. i’m sad that i didn’t know about his passing until now, that we were out of touch despite my feeling like we were actually always very close at heart. just goes to show…