On February 8, 2015, we gathered at Ri Ra in Clarendon to remember Brad.
"We" is not a word I am used to using. There were a lot of people there. More people than I normally see in an entire week. And that was only a fraction of the multitude who had paid their respects at the funeral home a few hours earlier. At one point I counted a hundred people just in the funeral home's parlor and at least that many in the halls, waiting room, refreshment room, and loitering outside with smokes and dip. I had written that Brad was much loved and would be much missed. I had no idea by how many, though.
The stream of people introducing themselves and shaking my hand was too much for me to process. I only recognized a handful of people. I actually knew fewer than that. I gave up trying to remember names and faces and just nodded my head, said thank you, maybe hugged them, and then did my best to extricate myself from the situation. Not even half of them made the trip to Ri Ra, but even so, the crowd there was less a group of people than a force of nature: surging, ebbing, flowing, rising, falling, advancing, and receding. All for Brad. All for the person I had been selfishly thinking of as my friend.
Our friend is what he was.
I said a few words—extemporized within the moment and now forgotten—and tried to take the cameras and disappear back into the few empty spaces the bar still had. An elementary school friend of both Brad and myself, who I had been overjoyed to see and meet and hug at the funeral home, caught me and offered me a seat.
It was at a table full of folks who went to HB Woodlawn with Brad. Some I'd known. Some well. Most not. Our conversation broke the flow of time completely. We would tell stories and laugh and cry and then stop as one and sit in perfect stillness for a second or two or three before crashing back into life and motion with the next story—which might be from 2004 or 1996 or 1992 or 1999 or any point between or beyond.
It was the kind of thing Brad would've loved. The idea of it, the planning of it, the anticipation of it—all would've made him crazy—but once he was there, he would've floated happily on the currents all night long.
To everyone who was there at the funeral home, thank you. To everyone who came out to Ri Ra, thank you. To everyone who wished they could've been there, thank you. To everyone who shared a friendship with Brad, thank you. To his family and his wife, thank you. Again, and again, and again: thank you.