Blowing from the west
Fallen leaves gather
In the east.
Today is All Souls’ Day, a day foe prayer and remembrance of loved ones who have died. I’m not Catholic or religious in the traditional sense, but on this day I can’t help but think of my friend Neil.
Neil and I
Neil died March 15/16 of this year. He lived in Japan, hence the double date as I’m not sure which date is correct. We met 13 years ago while studying at the Nagoya University of Foreign Studies. Neil was one of the older students in our dorm and he took on an avuncular role towards many of us twenty-somethings. I say avuncular rather than fatherly because Neil would’ve been the fun but highly inappropriate uncle at Thanksgiving dinner that your mother would warn you about.
My first night in Nagoya, fresh off the plane (and full of aviary adventures I’ll probably relate in another post), was spent in a tiny Karaoke bar not far from the dorm–an event all organized by Neil. There we were, students from all over–Americans, Brits, Aussies, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese–drunkenly singing “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker, Jr. Neil was that kind of guy. He brought people together.
He also saved my life.
Although I loved Japan, I was having a difficult time. I think this is when my depression first started to manifest itself. I was drinking more often than was normal for me, or even for someone my age probably (the legal drinking age in Japan is 20). I remember one night sitting down in our outside eating area, my microwave dinner in one hand and a small bottle of Jim Beam in the other. I think it may have been a Tuesday. Neil was also out there, smoking a cigarette. He looked at me, saw what I had and asked me if I was sure that’s what I wanted to do. At the time I said “of course,” but I ended up taking a good long look at how I was turning out because of that question. He was the only one to notice something wasn’t right with me and that simple question was enough for me to turn inward.
I never got the chance to tell him in person how much he meant to me. He ended up going back to Japan after graduating and I stayed in the States to graduate and start my life. We reconnected when Facebook hit the Internet, but even then I never did tell him how much that moment between us changed my life. I guess I always thought there’d be more time. I wanted to take my husband to Japan, have him meet Neil, and tell Neil exactly how I felt. Now that will never happen.
Neil, my friend, I love you and miss you every day. The world has a little less sparkle in it now that you’re gone. I know you’re telling randy jokes to angels, but I wish you were here telling them to me.