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Home for the Holidays:

What I Learned from Geoffrey




I packed the rest of my belongings in the black and brass trunk my dad had bought for me when I began my time at college.  The New Orleans summer sun was particularly bright as I wheeled the last of the contents of my tiny dorm room down to the hall, where an elevator took me five floors down to a quad packed with departing students.  My heart was breaking and soaring at the same time, the thought of leaving a city that I thought of as home, along with all it’s beautiful and eccentric people, almost more than I could bear, while the thought of seeing the loves and comforts I had left behind at the town of my birth made the travesty a little easier to confront. 

         I packed my stuff into my father’s vehicle and made my way back to the residential area of campus to say goodbye to those friends who had become such a part of my life that I knew I’d never leave them behind in my heart, no matter where we may end up.  I stopped at the front desk and left my keys with a desk assistant and was greeted at the door with many embraces and tears.  Dixie , take care darling, and promise you will be back to visit!” Drew said to me.  I agreed that I would, after all, it was only five hours of driving from what was to once again be my home, Birmingham , Alabama . (This was the cause for my earning the nickname “ Dixie ”. I still to this day hold the hope that it had nothing to do with what I perceive is a very slight southern accent.) Every goodbye was remotely casual in the effect that we all assumed that we would see each other again. We were brand new adults still, and subject to the naïve nature found in all of humanity at our age. The world was a new place full of good things.  We were young and invincible. 

         As I was leaving, Geoffrey caught up to me to say goodbye.  This was what I knew was going to be the hardest aspect of leaving the school that I held so dear but was financially impossible: leaving behind the first and truest friend I had made.  The expected and almost welcome tears flooded from my eyes in a cathartic release of emotions.  “It’s gonna be okay, sweetie! I’ll see you when I come home to Birmingham for the holidays, we’ll have plenty of time then!” he said to soothe my fears, flashing me a goofy, open mouthed smile to show off his tongue piercing, which had been one of his crazy ideas in a moment of bravery that I am quite afraid was, in fact, inspired by my own outlandish piercing.  He was always a breath of life to me, Geoffrey who never had an unkind word for even the most insufferable of creatures, Geoffrey who walked me through my first independent trek down Bourbon Street, the same Geoffrey who held me in his arms and comforted me when I found that I would not be able to continue my education at the expensive private university we had both been fortunate enough to be able to attend for a while.


         He had always been there for me, even though sometimes it was as simple as waiting on me between classes so I wouldn’t have to suffer through lunch on campus alone, letting me choose where to eat, or bumming me a cigarette when the nicotine fits would hit and I was broke or too lazy to walk to a store.  He was always the light of the Sunday breakfast that all of my eccentric friends and I would prepare together in the dorm kitchen.  We were misfits, each and every one of us, but somehow in finding each other we had found our place in the world.  He was one of the bravest people I have ever known in the aspect that he wasn’t afraid of what being different might someday mean or of how other people would judge him according to his differences from the world.  He loved the world for what it was, for the little magic the day would hold.  God Bless Geoffrey.


         I returned his goofy smile with the high pitched and out of place giggle that he was accustomed to from me, and with this, we both parted company.  After all, he was from my home town. There was no doubt in my mind that I would see him for the holidays.  After all, we were young, what could possibly inhibit it.


         I went along with my new life back home, as Geoffrey did with his in New Orleans . Occasionally we would keep up over internet messengers.  The last time I spoke with him, he carried news of a new love and crazy tales of happenings within our group of misfits.  He was zealous and beautiful, young and alive.  He left me again that night, with a typed message that was the same as his last spoken words to me.  “I’ll see you when I get home for the holidays! We’ll have a great time and catch up then!”


         With that, we once again went about our daily lives, until one day I turned on my computer to be hit with an instant message that went through me like a dagger.  A girl that was more of an acquaintance than a friend messaged me. “Do you know Geoffrey? From the summer semester?” she asked.  “Why, of course I do! What about him?” I asked. I thought it was common knowledge that I knew him!   “He died this morning.” was her reply.  It took minutes to register into my brain.  What? How? No. This can’t be so.  This was a cruel joke. When I realized that it was true, I was infuriated that this message had been delivered so casually.  I was ready to kill the messenger.  How could someone simply say “Geoffrey’s dead.”  I didn’t know what to feel.


         It was very much true.  Geoffrey had been hit by a car on his way for a weekend night out.  He was walking down a street behind the campus.  The only thing that was most likely on his mind was the plans for the night.  In seconds, my image of the invincible aspect of youth was gone.  I really became an adult.


         The holidays passed in an almost surreal manner.  I had given so much thought to who I would see over the holidays that I had never really given a thought to those who I might not see.  I was so busy looking ahead that I forgot to relish what was in the present, the gifts of love and small sacrifices that those who I shared love were making for me at that moment.  It’s a message that is preached over and over again, but it was never a lesson learned for me until Geoffrey taught me.  He was always teaching me things. There is no promise of a tomorrow; this moment could be all you have left in the world.  I see now why Geoffrey never wasted those moments with hatred or cross words for anyone.  He realized that there wasn’t time in this life to spend hating and poisoning the magic of a simple moment that is now.  All he did was love.  That’s all there should be in the world. This  moment, filled with pure and utter happiness and love. I’ve never learned a lesson so hard in my life.                                                                                                

         Geoffrey was an organ donor.  Somewhere, he taught someone else how precious the moment now is by giving them a second chance at life.  Someone who wouldn’t have made it otherwise has a chance to keep there promise.  “I’ll see you when I come home for the holidays.”


         We never stop to think about the seats that won’t be filled at the table this year.  We forget these things because we are invincible. 

         To whoever has Geoffrey’s heart, you are a very lucky person. God knows you have a good one.