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  • Writer's pictureEric Knabel

Thoughts From Six Feet Away: A Different Kind of "New Normal"

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? I had a pretty good streak going for a while - I was getting posts up every two weeks, imparting some of the life wisdom I’ve gained in the fifty-two laps I’ve taken around the sun. I don’t know if people were reading them or not, but it felt good for me to transfer them from thoughts to words. I was creating, and I had purpose.

That all changed on April 15th.

For those who don’t know, I lost one of my dearest friends in the world, and I wrote about him in my last blog post. I guess I’ve been fortunate; for someone whose career is predicated on the struggle between life and death, I had been fairly immune to being affected on a personal level. My dad died in 1999, but I’m not afraid to admit that his loss was not accompanied by sadness, so much as regret over lost time. I was grateful that we had reconnected in the months before he died, and I was glad to get the closure on that part of my life, without having that loose end dangling in my psychological breeze. Outside of that, I’ve seen friends and classmates pass on, but no one’s loss has affected me like this. Think of your three best friends in the world, and now imagine losing one of them. That is the task I find myself facing.

I’ve tried to honor his memory in a way I think he’d appreciate, While we didn’t speak often in recent years, he was always a mere memory away, and there weren’t many days where something would happen, and I’d think of him. I’ve had a chance to reconnect with many old friends over the past couple of weeks. It was a testament to my relationship with my friend Keith, I think; after hearing of his death, so many of our mutual friends’ thoughts immediately went to, how is Eric handling this? To all those who have reached out with kind words, thank you. Sharing memories has been invaluable in how I’m processing my grief. When the sadness grips me at random moments, one thought continues to surface:

When do you go “back to normal?”

And for that matter, how do you define normal? For some, it was easy. They left the funeral home shaking their heads, were maybe even sad for the evening, then went back to living their life. That will not be my fate. When the grief hits, I find myself rooted to the spot for a few minutes before I can even carry on. In some parts of my brain, I envy those who have been able to process things and move along. But for his good friends, his family, and his girlfriend, there is a hole that is roughly the size of someone small in stature, but big in personality.

I know one thing for sure – I’m not progressing quickly enough for the tastes of some.

Although no one has said it, I suspect that some are growing weary of my daily Facebook posts with the concert shirt I wear in his honor for that day. “When will you stop doing that?” I’ve been asked by some. “Haven’t you run out of shirts?” Not even close. To some, I represent stability, and it benefits them none to have me on shaky ground. I’m waiting for a “When will you move on?” My answer to that is simple: I don’t know if I ever will. I certainly won’t take anything in life for granted, and I hope I don’t lose sight of the lessons his sudden and untimely death have taught me. Keith never overthought things: he decided what he wanted out of life, and he chased it.

I apologize if my words are a jumbled mess. If they are, they’re an accurate reflection of my thoughts. I don’t feel particularly wise, certainly not enough to impart valuable life lessons; in fact, I’m pretty much faking it right now, in the interest of total transparency. But I know how I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to buy a pair of hiking boots, and log miles for him. I’m not on a “multi-day, pooping in a hole” level of commitment, but be patient with me. I’m going to continue going to concerts. I’m going to stop overthinking everything and not take myself too seriously. To my wife, my kids, and my friends: thank you for giving me a shoulder to cry on. To Curt and Dean, even though we’ve lost the link that unites us, I’m still your brother. And to Marissa, I will always be willing to sit in silence with you. To everyone else, be excellent to each other, and…

Party on, dudes. I don't think I'm ready for Abe to come back just yet.

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