Cut Him Out In Little Stars

When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

This isn’t an entry about love. This isn’t even an entry about friendship. What it is about is death — and those little relationships we all have with people we peripherally know, which I suppose would be called an acquaintance. In the city of Philadelphia, as everywhere, each of us exists in the center of a social sphere. Our work, our favorite restaurant, our partner’s, our neighborhoods, schools, etc. And my spheres overlap with hundreds of other people’s, and theirs with still others, constantly coming closer and drifting apart throughout our lives. It’s imperceptible and overwhelming all at once.

Someone who existed in my sphere — and in varying levels of importance for hundreds of others — died suddenly this week.

I didn’t know Josh well, but what I do know is that he had an easy smile. That smile got him out of lots of trouble! The week of my 30th birthday, a year ago, he refused to believe that it was my 30th. He was young, only 24 at the time, and he couldn’t believe I was older than him. (Much less more than five years older than him.) I laughed and told him that just because my hair changes colors and I have a facial piercing, it’s not indicative of my supposed youthfulness. I stole his stapler and calculator every Wednesday for almost two years. If he was sitting at his desk, he’d giggle every time. He never complained about the albeit temporary loss of his office supplies, even when I apologized. Not everyone is so easy-going about their possessions, their desks, their spaces. Every Wednesday, I took a checking account deposit slip from his stash and jokingly accused him of failing at his job on the rare occurrence when the slot was empty. He could dish out the shit-talk, but he could also take it. Josh greeted every joke at his expense with his distinctive laughter — he’d start, pause, and then laugh more. There was always lively banter going on in the office, or over office-wide email, and Josh was guaranteed either the originator or target of the joke.

I know he had a family and I feel for them. His sister, especially, because I cannot imagine losing my little brother. They are not the only family I know who has lost a loved one in the last month. It’s terrifyingly sad and my heart aches for those that are left. Death is a part of life, yes. Logically I know that. But I don’t know the thing to do to correctly ease their pain, nor are my words, thoughts, feelings ever enough to honor the memories left. They were here, now they’re gone. How do you begin to acknowledge that?

I’d want them to know that they will be remembered and that they made an impact, even on people like me on the furthest regions of their spheres.


You never got used to it, the idea of someone being gone. Just when you think it’s reconciled, accepted, someone points it out to you, and it just hits you all over again, that shocking. ― Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever


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