There are three dead people on my cell phone. At first there was only one: my gentle cousin, who I never got around to calling. A shrink in the making, who decided to terminate his practice ahead of schedule. A nice man – affable, sympathetic, gay. The latter is a pregnant adjective, of course, but I use it only to usher in a sweeping statement: with the exception of some women, there is no other sub-category of human being who can match the unmitigated self-loathing suffered by some gay men. My cousin was a case in point. I am sure everyone around him tried to convince him otherwise, but he was unable to rise to the unattainable standard he had set for himself. I am tempted to draw a comparison with Carl Lewis, offing himself because he didn’t win Olympic gold at pole-vaulting, but the differences between my cousin and Carl are a little too self-evident. Carl is still alive, for one.
Which brings me to the second dead person on my cell phone: my father-in-law. He and my mother-in-law are still together on my mobile monument. Whenever I click through to “pap & mam” to call my mother-in-law, I am reminded of my wife’s envy-inspiring grief at the loss of her father. My own father has passed on too, but it never hit me quite as hard. Having re-read the aforesaid, I realise how cynical that may sound. Perhaps I should be grateful that my own father never inspired that much love, or that I was incapable of loving that much. Sadly, my son has my father-in-law’s eyes, which moves my wife to tears on many a happy occasion. Yes, we’re a cheerful bunch.
Bring out the Kleenex, because I have one last soul in cell-phone limbo: my neighbour, a successful yuppie who had just disentangled himself from a roller-coaster career to wed his sweetheart. He said he was suffering from stress-related backache, brought on by a final dash at the office in preparation for his wedding and honeymoon. Little did he know that the cancer in his gallbladder had already spread to his spine and was racing up the column to greyer pastures. He didn’t even get a chance to round things off. He was flat on his back within a month, with his TV mounted high upon the wall, just under the ceiling. Whenever I dropped in to help the nurse clean the bedding, he would promise to do the same for me if I fell ill. And I would promise to kill him if he didn’t. Oh how we laughed. His name was Pascal, so I still run into him whenever I click through to “pap & mam”. In fact, they’re right next door to each other, which is strangely comforting.
I just went through the list to make sure there were no other souls on my mobile monument. I’m sure others will join them in the years ahead. Several candidates are living lives that invite sudden death, and others are just old. So, for the moment, let me honour this trio of cellular departed with a fitting epitaph: Love Yourself, Love Others, Do it Now.