It's almost 3 in the morning and I'm wide awake. For the second time in eleven weeks, I went skating tonight. For someone who used to skate two to three times per week, for me to be absent this long is rare. Nonetheless, I found some energy, laced up my skates, and pressed on.
The regulars were there. My skate buddy, who also missed last week's session, was there. A friend from high school, who I hadn't seen at the rink in a long time, was there. Byron, another long-time regular, was also there.
My skate buddy and I had just exited the rink after a fast song to sit and get hydrated. We both saw Byron hit the floor. We commented that Byron NEVER falls and that it was a shock to see him on the ground.
It turns out that he didn't fall; he collapsed. A couple of skaters started administering CPR until an ambulance was able to respond. They worked on him in the truck on site for what seemed like an eternity. When the ambulance pulled away, a few of us went to the hospital and waited. And waited. His family showed up and we waited some more.
He didn't make it.
He woke up this morning to do what he usually does on Friday - no doubt with an anticipation to roll later that evening. He didn't know that this would be his final skate. No one knew. No one ever knows.
He always had the largest smile and most genuine of greetings. I can't remember if we've ever skated or not - perhaps once. I do remember that he always said hello. ALWAYS. He was pleasant, cordial, and just enjoyed skating. The skaters that were at the hospital said that they've known/skated with him for over 30 years.
He was a good guy.
The suddenness of his passing is unreal. Everything seemed so normal. He waived and spoke like he always did. While I was skating backwards, I watched him and his skate buddy do their graceful turns together - again just like normal.
I am sorry. I forgive you. I love you. Thank you. I don't want to leave this place without saying these things to people who've entered/exited and continue to exist in my life. I hope we can all do the same.