A day later and the news still seems so unreal to me. Patrick is gone.
I would love to tell you that he died in a moment of glory, saving the lives of small children from a burning school bus while beating zombies about the head with the stump of his arm, but I can't. He died along with five others in an attack on his scout group. Pat was driving, the vehicle was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, and his song was cut off mid-note. The team that found them were only able to identify the bodies--the skeletons--because Pat's arm was missing.
It's almost too much for me to handle. Seeing the people around here react is sort of like watching what would happen if something fundamental like gravity suddenly clocked out for the day. His nieces are completely devastated, of course, but Pat did right by preparing them both for the likelihood of this very piece of news. They're broken, sad things right now, but not hopeless. He taught them better than to give in to despair.
Jess took yesterday and today off, which is unheard of. She doesn't stop working until the work is done, but Pat was her friend long before the world ended. He was one of the few people she was comfortable around before The Fall, back when she was so pathologically shy she couldn't even make phone calls most of the time. Pat always made her laugh. Every damn time he was around her.
Patrick's daughter is still so young, just a year old now. I'm tearing up just thinking about her growing up without him in her life. Nothing will ever fill that hole, but I will do my best (as I know everyone will) to make certain his memory is honored and kept alive. It's a pale imitation of the man himself, but with any luck it will serve as something for that little girl to wrap herself up in as she grows, something of him to hold on to.
And as for me?
God, where do I even start? I lost my best friend, maybe the best I've ever had. Someone who never stopped trying to lighten the mood no matter how bad things got--and look around you, people, because it's full dark out there--and never took it badly when you glared at his (occasionally) stupid jokes. It's selfish as hell that I get to share my grief with so many of you, but right now I don't care at all.
I lost a brother.
My world just got a whole lot smaller. This is a sad reminder to many of us that we don't appreciate the magnitude of what we have until it goes, and Pat was loved. Very much so. There are so many people here comforting each other; even folks who only knew him as the town blacksmith have commented about his personality, memorable even in those short business transactions. To be fair a few of those people mentioned Pat breaking wind, loudly and without apology, and the smile that followed. I'm not trying to sum up his character as a fart joke, I swear, but it's kind of true. Pat did things like that without shame or guile, because he liked seeing people react. Usually with a smile. Sometimes vomiting.
And look at that; even remembering him makes me laugh and joke. Pat was the kind of guy who could be very hard to take seriously, but I'll be damned if that doesn't translate into some pretty great memories. He was a good man, a loyal friend, and a dedicated father. I think the last would have been, in his opinion, the most important achievement in his life.
As I continue to babble here, I think of all the things most of you don't know. Pat once seriously considered becoming a priest, which I'm thankful he never did if only because it would have robbed me of an amazing human being in my life. So many little details about him keep leaping up to me, so many memories and thoughts. I'll write them all down, if not here. So I can share them with his little girl when she's old enough.
Memories are all I have of him now. As I think about that, I consider myself lucky. She doesn't even have that.