Two years ago tomorrow, my dear friend Cayce Lindner died. His death was a shocking surprise in the worst kind of way. He was just shy of 40, with two young kids and a wife who is one of my favorite people in the world. Although Cayce immediately started hurtling into the past, as happens with death, the loss of his living presence is still kind of unbelievable. He was a big man.
When I found out that he had died, the day after his actual death, I was in my downtown office. Another friend called to tell me the news. I remember collapsing in stages - first standing up in shock, then sitting down, then putting my head on my knees, then falling onto the floor. I called my husband who was with a client not far from my office. It immediately became clear that neither of us could work and that we needed to be together. I told my boss what was going on, grabbed my bag and began the 15 minute walk to meet Ken.
As I walked, through a neighborhood filled with some of San Francisco's most down-and-out, my sadness and shock were accompanied by two powerful feelings. For one, I couldn't believe that all of the drunks and crazy people and heroin addicts I was passing were alive and Cayce was not. Cayce was, himself, a bit of a binger who struggled to maintain his own mental health, but he had a house and a wife who cooked him vegetables and two unbelievably beautiful children. His death and the lives of those with seemingly so much less to live for were utterly irreconcilable. And still are, except now I am used to them sitting side by side, pointing out how the other makes no sense.
The other feeling that filled me as I walked to meet Ken (and stayed with me for days and weeks and even is with me now years later) is an awareness of the unbelievable preciousness of ordinary life. In an instant, I came to know how much I treasure having a job, making breakfast, even cleaning the fucking toilet. I don't know why death shows us why the ordinary is so valuable, except maybe that it is the ordinary that defines what it means to be alive. I mean, when Cayce died I didn't think to myself 'I'm so happy to still be alive so I can still have once-in-lifetime experiences" or "I can't believe I might climb Denali and Cayce never will." Instead my heart was gripped with "I love this weird, sterile, downtown office so much", and it was the feeling of my palms touching the skin of my cheeks that made life feel worth living. And as I mourn, on Cayce's behalf, for the things he will never do and see, it is all of the tuesday night dinners he will miss that make me weep. Even though it is also true that he will never play Coachella or learn to sky-dive.
As we go through life, much of the time mindlessly, we focus on and live for the amazing moments - the rarest experience, the most beautiful vista or vacation - and those things do make us FEEL alive and full of reasons to live. At its simplest, however, being alive is having days following one another until there are no more days. Ordinary and mundane in that way, even when any given day is filled with extraordinary things.
Last night I read "The Long-Haired Boy" to my kids. It is a poem by Shel Silverstein and it made me think of Cayce, who did, in fact, have a shitload of hair.
I couldnt find the text reprinted anywhere- but here is a recording of a reading with animation.
Sending love to you, Cayce Lindner.