Tonight I thanked a friend and said goodbye for the last time.
It is a grim ritual, this business of the last goodbye. My friend didn’t look like the man I knew. He appeared as a sleeping wax figure, an ill-conceived doll imitating the man, the fingers too long and too thin. He was a poor approximation of the funny, vibrant, fit fellow named Wayne. He brought joy wherever he went and now he is dead at 56. Fifty-six used to seem old, but I was very young then.
I write horror that is an escape and a distraction. This is real life and it is often horrific in the end. When such good people disappear from our lives so suddenly and unexpectedly, this is the Slow Rapture of the Taken Too Soon. I’d be furious if I didn’t feel so empty.
By now you’re wondering why on Earth I’m telling you this.
Wayne was a bucket list man. Beside his open casket, there were many pictures: Wayne in marathons; Wayne playing golf, canoeing, cycling; Wayne with his loved ones on trips and fishing with his boys. He was immune to stress. He laughed easily. He made others laugh often and strangers soon became friends.
The visitation was a huge crowd as impressive and varied as the photos from his short life. I was privileged to know Wayne well. He was a positive force for good in the universe whose heart suddenly shut down without warning a couple of days ago and I am utterly devastated.
When I’m stuck for a plot point or searching for the hidden joke, I close my eyes and I wait for the right question. When I have that, the right answer will appear. So…why am I telling you this? Does this belong here? Maybe not…
But then the answers flood in:
Because I wish Wayne was a writer so I could open a book and still have his cheery voice in my head.
Because Wayne did a lot of good things with the time he had.
Because my friend knew the power of the bucket list.
Because if you’re waiting to do something, like fulfilling your dream of writing and publishing a book, I need to ask you to stop waiting. Please.
When I told Wayne I was taking a leave from my day job to dedicate all my time to writing, he smiled and said, “It’s your bucket list.” Wayne knew men in his family often didn’t make it out of their 50s. He knew the value of time.
There isn’t time to procrastinate. That’s why I’m telling you this. Do what you need to do. Your life is more important than your writer’s block. Push through. Every clock is ticking down, some fast, some slow, but there is always less time.
This is not a threat or useless fury or powerless sympathy card verse. This is me, in grief, searching for the meaning and the inspiration to move forward. Last night, I wept for the loss of my friend. I did not write. Wayne would not have approved.
Tonight, I’m back to writing my book about a guy with a time machine trying to correct the mess he’s made of his life. Sadly, it’s fiction. We can’t go back. The clock ticks in one direction. Wayne’s clock has wound down, but if he were here, he’d tell me to get on with my obsession. He’d smile again. I so wish I could see his easy smile again.
Each book we write is that time machine, taking us closer to what and when and where we need to be. That’s one place we can often make strangers smile. Through intelligence and imagination and creativity, together we’ll find the answers to all those desperate wishes, whether it’s writing stories to distract readers from pain or breaking cruel diseases’ grip on our mortality.
Today, for you, do more than the dishes. Work in the bucket list. Work on your bucket list.
Goodbye, Wayne. Thank you so much for being you. I’m changed because you came this way. I won’t forget.
My screen is a watery blur now.
And we write on.