We gathered to say goodbye.
We picked a familiar place, a small cafe with wooden floors and tables and mismatched chairs. We held our drinks, but no one took a sip. No one said a word.
Minutes passed while the last of the day’s light shone in.
Finally someone cleared their throat and broke the ice with two words, spoken softly. Just two words.
And then the goodbyes came.
For over an hour we shared stories of the friend we’d lost. We told each other fond memories, anecdotes, surprises. Silly stuff, momentous stuff.
We each shared a piece of our friend’s life. Some pieces overlapped, some were like secrets revealed. A whole picture–an entire life–emerged. He was still sitting at the table with us.
It reached a point where we couldn’t help but smile through the tears. Our chatter, at first soft and sorrowful, grew into laughter and celebration. Outsiders looked across as if we were celebrating a birthday. We were, in a way.
We spoke with love and admiration, grateful for all that our friend had done for us over the years.
We honoured the memory of a life well spent.
We were sure to tell the best of it.
When it was time to leave, I realised: we had said all these wonderful things about our friend, but we had never said those things to him before we lost him.
And we should have done.