I've been contacted several times already today - via phone and email - telling me that others are thinking about De today, too, and thanking me for being there for him and Carolyn when they needed someone they could count on.
Sometimes it seems it just happened; at other times, it seems like it couldn't possibly have happened the way it did, that it must all have been a really great dream that ended very sad...
When someone you love and rely on for wise input and undying encouragement dies, you go into a kind of shock, especially when you have to carry on, make arrangements, be strong for somebody else. You manage to function in a fog, day to day, like an animal, out of memory, out of instinct more than out of any real desire.
Over time, as the numbness fades and the big hole in your life (where your friend once stood) yawns before you, you find healing to be slow. You're alternately angry, afraid, confused. You wonder anew if the tales of heaven are true or only fabrications of a mind that refuses to let go of the person you loved and the person you are. You realize you MUST see them again, be with them again, to tell them that even though you appreciated them in life, you had no idea how little you could measure their worth to your world until they were gone.
I'm lucky in so many ways. When it comes to De, I have hours of convention tapes to keep me company when I feel a need to re-connect visually, viscerally. Not that I do it much, because even though it's cool, it's never enough. It isn't now, it isn't here, it isn't real. It was real, but now it's just a memory, as blessed and as wonderful as memories are.
I think, "People like De should never die. They're too valuable. They love like too few others do."
I interact with other Christians frequently, and see glimpses of De in them, but even in this rarefied atmosphere, so few of them seem to "get" Christ and his message in the way De did. God's message ("love one another") inhabited De the way beauty inhabits a rose. Never a Bible-thumper or preacher, De was simply a mirror -- a reflector of God's love and light.
St. Francis' saying fit De to a T: "Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words."
It's this quality I miss most about De. He knew what a failed human being I am, when compared against my actual potential. I have always wanted to grow up to be just like De, a reflection of Christ (since becoming like De seems at least remotely do-able, while becoming like Christ -- completely perfect and without sin -- does not).
De was a touchstone for me. Here was a man who had mastered the art of being in the world but not of the world. His ministry was to lift up the downcast and downtrodden and help them realize they are worthy of love.
He was an encourager, a helper, a reliable beacon, and an invaluable friend. I have no doubt whatsoever that when he arrived in heaven ten years and fifteen minutes ago, he heard, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
De, I miss you, love you, and will never forget you. And I look forward to seeing you again soon. You are as irreplaceable in my life as you are in eternity.