When David’s friend, Jack, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer we knew he was going to die. There is no cure and the longest one can expect to live is a year.
David’s first response was to pull away. Jack had been his best friend since he was a teen just starting out at the phone company. They worked together for years and socialized regularly even after David moved to other jobs. Leaning over a pool table they vented to each other all the things you can’t say to your wife or workmates. Their lives were separate, and at one point separated by miles when Jack moved to Texas, but they knew that with just a phone call they would have an ear with no judgment; a friend to laugh with and remind you what is really important in life. In Jack, David had a friend that knew who he was - so he could relax and be who he is. So, his first response to the thought of losing his friend was to pull away. Avoid the pain, but the trade off would have been the loss of the short time left with his friend.
After Jack died, we sat against each other in the house we had visited often in that year, drawing on each others strength. Remembering the trip to Vegas in the spring, the many games of pool played at the nearby pub, introducing him to our new born son, the time spent taking him to that place in his mind where there is no pain, just memories of life. We wrapped ourselves in our own thoughts of loss and what we will miss, the weight of Jacks life heavy without him to carry it.
When his wife came into the room with his pool case, the one he carried all the time, that he’d owned for the fifteen years I’d known him, made of soft beige leather with tiny Indian beading near the top; - it was like Jack had just stepped into the room. For just one brief elating moment he was there with us. It was just seconds. The weight lifted, hovered above us, and then more gently covered us again, like a fresh sheet on the bed.
His cue and case were buried with him the next day, placed in the casket with his empty body. We already had what we could keep of Jack.