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.