Saturday, January 3, 2009


My former roommate, Ryan, whom I lived with during my sophomore year of college, was murdered the day after Christmas. Over a drink placed on a billiard table. Stabbed to death in a parking lot. 22 years old. Youthful and animated. Now recumbent, decaying.

For a few minutes after receiving the link to the news story ("Son of prominent I.E. pastor stabbed to death in Temecula bar fight Friday night") I could barely stand. There must have been anguish and blood and slipping away. And what of his embodiment so familiar to me? Lifeless? How? What?

My head was light, my utterances breathy, my face listless and mouth agape. Bending over, I clutched my legs—my insides were churning and I needed to recoup solidity. Though I didn't act on it, I felt a desire to crouch in a corner, perpendicular walls flanking my body. Then the mind finds a strain it can grasp—you think about how this is affecting you. Thoughts must be verbalized and responded to. And then you reach for your cell phone. And you start calling others.

Untimely death, like nothing else, leads to uneasy, yet deliberate reflection—but also these bouts of shocked head shaking and resignment. Unrelated thought streams are interrupted with an exhalation and a subdued declaration, "he's really dead." It confounds the mind. Repeatedly.

Mental energy is devoted to the usual time travel fantasies and the what-ifs of Byzantine cause and effect etiologies. You entertain visions of vigilante justice meted out brutally and mercilessly. And you think of his body—his hands and his face once supple and animated, now deteriorating. You vacillate between the indecorum of macabre posturing and the righteous defense of hard reality in lieu of white misty souls ascending to heaven. You think about his salvation. What happened to everything-him?

Physicalist Christian that I mostly am, there is no comfort for me in the pieties that "he is now with Jesus" or "receiving his reward." His embodied existence, i.e., his total personal existence, is over. There is no breath in his body. In my amateur estimation, "he" is awaiting resurrection and in the meantime the "he" that remains is a memory, a void in the context and relationships he shaped but from which he is now absent. Reality marches on, except, now, without the influence of his agency here or anywhere.

His ceased existence challenges my own and the ominous fact of non-breath is unsettling everything-me.