Like a Beautiful Prehistoric Bird

When someone has died and we are told about it, so often our first inclination is to say, "But I only saw him a few days ago!" We say it incredulously, hand against mouth, the mouth open: "The last time I saw him he was fine!" But oh, the terrible insignificance of the occasion. Should we have known? If only we had known! And that time we ran into him downtown a few weeks ago, should we have had lunch with him when he'd asked? You could tell he'd have liked that; to be having lunch with a girl half his age on a breezy Saturday afternoon. We should have said yes. Why didn't we say yes?

The last time I saw Don was through my office window, a few days ago. He was always around. You'd run into him in hallways, exchange a quick hello. He'd step aside and let you rush by; you were always rushing by. He'd been shooting for the magazine for 15 years, a veteran photographer who had his quirks---one of which turned out to be an enlarged heart. Enough, it said yesterday evening as he lay in bed. No more of this.

I knew little about him, beyond what was obvious. He cycled everywhere, 140 miles a week, often showing up in the office dressed head to toe in brightly-colored lycra so that you never knew quite where to look. He was 58, with three ex-wives and as many children—too much love in that enlarged heart. He always burst into rooms. He'd ask you to grab him a beer while he was setting up for a shoot, and you'd do it. He was kind. And when I saw him the other day, he was chatting with a few other people outside the high glass window of my office, his bike at his side, his long helmet making him look like some kind of odd and beautiful prehistoric bird. It was sunny and he was dressed in the brightest yellow and I laughed at him. Because I didn't know any better. Because he looked so alive.

Nov 03, 2005

It amazes me when people who cherish their health die suddenly. I am always reminded of my grandfather who smoked heavily his whole life and dies at 90. Strange. Sorry to hear someone you know is no longer with you.

Nov 03, 2005

It seems Don was one of thoes rare good humans, who are slowly dying out. Like the dodo, like prehistoric birds.

Gretchen C.
Nov 04, 2005

Oh my. I'm sorry. I'm 45 years old, and the dismaying thing about that is that it happens more and more often, people dying uncomfortably close to you. The heavens start filling up with Famous Dead Guys. I can't even imagine what it's like by the time you're in your 70s.

By the way, hi. A friend linked me to your site, and I'm mostly glad she did, except I hate her because I see that I am going to have a lot of reading to do. Which I don't have time for. But read I will. Nice to virtually meet you.

Nov 07, 2005

Krista is so right. My mother would love nothing better than to die, but I am sure she will painfully linger for another 20 years.

Nov 14, 2005

What a lovely, thought provoking story. I've always loved people who are described as "characters". They make life interesting, and though they are sometimes mocked while they are here, they are always missed when they're gone.

- M