“Did you hear?” It was a few years out of high school. I was married. My cheerleader friend was married and had given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She called me, which was rare these days and said the phrase that always prefaces a bad conversation. “Did you hear?”
It’s never good news. It’s either bad gossip or bad news. It’s never greatness that follows the phrase, “Did you hear?” I told her no, wanting the conversation to get over with as soon as possible and hoping that it was just gossip. “Calvin’s dead.”
Death is a friend of ours; and he that is not ready to entertain him is not at home. Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626)
I don’t remember where I was. I don’t know if I was at work or at home. I don’t even remember where I was living at the time. I don’t even think that I said anything after she told me. “You need to go to the funeral,” she told me. “Yeah, sure. Do you want to carpool or meet me there?” “Oh no. I can’t go. I can’t let Football Player see me after having this baby. You know, he’s married now.” “Calvin got married?” “No, Football Player!” She was frustrated with me.
So, I went to Calvin’s funeral alone. Once again, I was the outsider and this time, I didn’t have my friend with me to justify my presence. The funeral was at Goff Mortuary. I have trouble remembering phone numbers, but the name of the mortuary where my friend was eulogized is in my memory forever.
I sat at the back of the room. Football Player and all the rest of the gang were there, decked out in the most horrid colors: yellow, purple and green. They were dressed in the team colors for the Utah Jazz. Of course, all of us are Jazz Fans, but Calvin had his last laugh because all his friends carried his coffin looking like the biggest dorks on the planet.
Always cool, Football Player’s face was stoic and unchanging. I don’t remember what anyone said at the funeral. Calvin’s fiance spoke about him and I tried to reconcile her with the lawyer’s wife that I had imagined for him.
Calvin had died in a car accident. They didn’t say whether it was drug related, alcohol related, sleep deprivation or whether Calvin was even driving or not. I never really found out what killed him beyond a couple of tons of twisted steel. I guess that’s enough.
There was an immeasurable distance between the quick and the dead: they did not seem to belong to the same species; and it was strange to think that but a little while before they had spoken and moved and eaten and laughed. W. Somerset Maugham, ‘Of Human Bondage’, 1915
They buried him at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park. Of the many times I’ve driven past that place, I don’t think there was a time when I didn’t think of Calvin. I haven’t returned to his grave, but the day I stood by it, I remember thinking that this place was too quiet for him.
I wish that I could tell a different story about Calvin. I wanted to tell the story of the man who beat adversity and made it through law school. I wish I could tell you that Calvin is representing drug offenders in the Utah courts. I wish I could tell you about his beautiful wife and his beautiful house. I wish I could tell you how he got there. Instead, he is so much worm food at Wasatch Lawn Mortuary.
Sometimes when I see a thin, curly haired boy skateboarding, I feel that essence of protection that used to surround me when I knew Calvin was at the party. I know that he haunts me to this day and I tell his story in a desperate attempt to exorcise him. If I had my way, I would relocate his grave to the skate park at Taylorsville Park. I think it would be a much better gravesite for him.