I lost an old friend this past weekend.
A son. A brother. An uncle. A grandson.
Vicki called me on Friday night to tell me bad news. I knew from the tone of her voice something was wrong, but you always expect that it's a grandparent, someone older, who has passed, but not this! Clayton had been killed in a car accident!
And then the breath leaves your body and you must sit down.
I didn't even believe it for the longest time. Something like that can't be real. It's too sudden.
But yesterday I went to the church for visitation. Standing at his casket, noticing every detail of where makeup (ineffectively) covered the bruises on his face, his hands. And I sobbed and had to step away.
I stepped away to the display of photos . There was a cute one with him holding a spotted pink-earred elephant when he was only 2 or 3 years old, school pictures with that long hair we all remember, some from his brothers wedding, many with his parents and grandparents and friends.
And one picture of me. Standing next to him at his highschool graduation. And I remember he didn't speak to me that entire night. Barely spoke to me for weeks prior. We broke up and I started seeing someone else. He promised me he'd never speak to me again if I dated this person. But he still wanted me at his grad. I was so confused and heart-broken, even though the heartbreak was my own fault. Years later, when I saw him last, he still didn't speak to me. It hurts when I think of how our friendship ended way back then. But he was a person who held secrets dear and kept his promises.
So, there I was standing over his casket telling him how sorry I was, telling him goodbye, trying to remember the good moments - the times we would spend hours on the phone and mom would get mad at him for calling me so late, the school nights he hitch-hiked to my house and dad would tease him about being a "long-haired goomer", the little koala bear he gave me for Valentines Day (i still have it), the skidoo rides on his old "12" up to the church marsh, the first time my 15-year old heart fluttered with glee when he said he loved me and I was too nervous to say it back. Happy memories. Memories to last forever.
Memories that, for many, have been cut much too short.
It's been so very long, Clayton, but I miss you like it was just yesterday that we were young and sneaking out between classes at school to see each other. R.I.P. old friend.
Clayton Robert Coates
March 15th, 1976 to January 8th, 2010