Living and Dying in ¾ Time

Posted: December 24, 2013 in McTrip posts
Tags: , , , , ,

1531677_1379384392315582_2113765239_nClichés can be so insipid. But there’s one I can’t get out of my head–the one about living every day like it’s your last.

Last Wednesday was Steve Pryseski’s last day. He died at 54 years old. His friends, of which I’m honored to have been one since 1984, called him Pry (that’s him on the right, sitting). Only a few months ago, Pry’s world was normal, proceeding on course. Then came cancer, then an operation, then complications, then more cancer, then death. A wife and daughter suffering with him, by his side watching it happen.

Like so much death I’ve witnessed, Steve’s leaves me just numb and befuddled. His passing reminds me of just how much things have changed–in the world, in my life, and in the way death has evolved for me.

When I was a kid I lost grandparents to death and it seemed logical. They were old. It’s what grandparents all eventually did. When I was in my 30s I lost friends and a lover to AIDS and it was infuriating. Now I’m middle aged and losing “young” friends, people in their 50s and 60s. Just three year I’ve lost three “young” friends—two to cancer and one to a heart attack—and it’s just surreal. Friends didn’t die of heart failure and cancer when I was 30.

The coincidences in life sometimes blow my mind. Just last week I finished merging contents from various storage units into my new apartment. I’ve been reunited with stuff I haven’t seen in years, including a box of letters written to me by friends. (Yes, letters–handwritten on paper, stuffed into envelopes, with cancelled postage stamps.)

Among them were 10 letters from Pry–letters written over the span of several years after he returned to Ohio following his sojourn to Arizona (where we met).

He was a prolific writer; his letters went on for pages, occasionally begging for a good editor. But his take on the world was always unique, thoughtful and amusing. I spent hours after his death reading them, sipping wine, and reminiscing about days gone by. What a unique chap he was.

When we met, I was a big Jimmy Buffett fan (I’ve since moved on, Pry remained loyal to the end). That common thread made us instant friends. But I learned so much more about his spirit over the years. He was analytical, and sentimental, and simple, in a very complex way.

Sadly over the years Steve and I drifted apart, for no other reason than he had his life a thousand miles away and I had mine. And now I’ll never again hear him laugh at one of my ridiculous comments. Or read a new letter he’s taken great pains to write. Or go rock bowling for old times’ sake, just like Pry, The Guv and I did back in those collegiate years.

Reading his letters, it occurred to me what I’d do if today were my last. I’d get on the phone and start calling people who have brought me joy, particularly those from my past. I’d make sure nothing was left unsaid. I’m pretty sure if you thought about it, you’d do the same thing on your last day. Because we’ve all had Steves in our lives. People who slip away without hearing firsthand how much joy they brought us over the years. That’s just adding insult to tragedy.

And if that’s cliché, so be it.

I dusted off some old Jimmy Buffett discs tonight in honor of my fallen friend. I’m fairly confident Pry would agree that “He Went to Paris” is very appropriate for the occasion:

He lives in the islands, fishes the pylons and drinks his Green Label each day/
Writing his memories, losing his hearing, but he don’t care what most people say/
Through 86 years of perpetual motion, if he likes you he’ll smile and he’ll say/
‘Some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic, but I had a good life all the way.’



    I like it! But you have an extra word in the first paragraph And again: who is the hub ? Comes out of nowhere And what is rock bowling?

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Brian says:

    Here’s to great friends!!

  3. Diane Hansen says:

    Makes me want to listen to some jimmy buffett

  4. Raymond granito says:

    I am so sorry I did not save all the hand written notes I have gotten over the is too late to start now at my many friends have died.their letters would have been bringing them to life once is so sad that we can never go back! Tell the living that you love them!

  5. Jul P says:

    That was lovely. Thank you!

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