I’m finally back in civilization. The camping trip went as expected. The sun smiled for two days, and the skies opened. But it’s not camping if you don’t fight the rain. And Jessi still got camping for her birthday.

I didn’t get any writing done. I don’t know why I thought this trip would be any different than the rest or that writing longhand would be viable–we left our phones in the cars for the trip–so needless to say, I only got one journal entry down. Though, it wasn’t for lack of inspiration.

Luckily enough, 2019 became the year I dwelt with periodical cicadas. Emerging only once every seventeen years, the brood provided a unique, lifetime experience. Many times, however, I found it hard to concentrate on the little buggers or their incessant roar, which filled every nook and cranny of the forest with its constant reverberations.

Not half a mile on the highway, eagerly heading to the woods, I received a phone call from my eldest brother.

“I have bad news,” he told me.

Not again. When his calls start like this, the week becomes intolerable.

Jeffery Williams, a longtime friend of his, and who consequently grew to be a brother to us and a son to our parents, had been in a car crash. His young daughter had already passed, but he was somehow holding on through his hemorrhaging.

“He is in Columbus,” Jacob continued the onslaught. “The doctors aren’t hopeful. His family are on the way there. I can’t get off work.”

I think, looking back on it now, I’m still slightly in shock. He became our family, had fit in snuggingly since the first day Jacob brought him over from school. On Saturday afternoons completely lost in Ocarina of Time‘s forest temple, reeling from my 11-year-old’s lack of comprehension, I could call Jeff and ask for his advice.

“How do I kill the flying, blue skull things?” I’d ask him.

“They’re called Skulltulas,” he’d respond, “and you have to use your hookshot.”

Offering this kind of help anytime I asked, Jeff effectively anchored my flight forward. He pulled me from darkness many times. A few times, even talking me through sleepless nights, letting me know he was there for me.

Eighteen years later, these are the things I thought of during my trip. How he had stayed close and helped me through so much darkness, and how he lay there in a hospital bed in a coma, barely long enough for his friends and family to say “Goodbye.” All I wanted was to be able to pull him from his own darkness, there in that bed, but I was powerless. I knew I couldn’t go to Columbus and see him like that, or if he would register I was there if I did.

His funeral is scheduled for next Wednesday, and I won’t miss it for the world.

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