Eternal Optimist: A Toast to an Old Friend

I was raised to be an optimist. Similar to being raised to be a good neighbor or a contributing member of society, I haven’t given this propensity for seeing the bright side of things too much scrutiny. What’s so wrong with seeing the glass half full? It’s better than being a sour puss, right?

Besides coming off as naive or foolishly happy, I haven’t received too much backlash from the world as I go about my business of trying to find life’s silver lining day in, day out.

When a long time friend suddenly died earlier this month, my brain went straight to where it always seems to go: What good could possibly come from this?

Looking over the jagged rocks lining the room where we celebrated Jeremy’s life, I racked my brain, searching for the positive. The silver. The shine. Where was it hiding?

“It’s too early to figure out any good that will come from this, isn’t it?” I asked my friend as he walked up to comfort me. Before the ceremony, I gave myself permission to feel and cry. So, that’s what I was doing: Feeling miserable and crying down to my belly.

“Yes.” My friend soothed me with his hand on the lower part of my back. I liked how he let me scan the scenery without saying anything else. Good friend silence.

I kept searching, squinting my eyes, hoping the recesses of my brain would bring some sense to this madness: How does a healthy young man simply die one morning?

Eventually Jeremy’s death did remind me of a woman who had her own story of loss. Ten years after her true love died (they were a couple a mere five years), she was still going strong on the reservoir of love they built together. She continued to thrive on that love despite his departure from her life.

I had hoped that tale would be the positive story Jeremy’s widow needed, so I shared it with her. Like my attempt at finding shimmer among the jagged red rocks flanking the terrace at the ceremony–it was too soon to see the bright side.

The theme from Jeremy’s celebration of life was that he knew how to live. He was well liked and liked things a certain way. He forged a path that worked for him and those he loved because he thought through it deliberately. More than one of us got called out on our shit when we didn’t live up to Jeremy’s high expectations. I trusted his honesty about those opinions even when I didn’t like them. Jeremy rang true.

So, has any good come out of Jeremy’s sudden death? I’m still drawing a blank, but there are shadows of something positive circling, asking to be let in. Ghosts of ideas hover beneath my overworking, positive-outlook-forming conscious.

What I do know is that a lot of good came from his life. The way he embraced life. The way people in his orbit were happy. We benefitted from his vibrancy and strong opinions. His wickedly clever turns of phrase (and equally sharp tongue) kept us on our toes as we tried to outwit him.

I realize a lot of folks get answers to life’s big questions from their faith. I’m not that fortunate. I’m more of a I-wish-I-was-a-believer than a non-believer. That being said, I don’t lean on prayer or faith or God or gods when thinking about death.

More than anything, I believe in optimism.

I have faith tomorrow will be a good day. The shimmer from those silver linings may be dulled with rain clouds. Drinking from a half-full glass may be too little to get that wonderful first beer buzz. So be it. We’ll just stomp in puddles as we head off to the next bar, arm in arm. Compadres in living life fully.

And toast the next one to Jeremy.



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