IF YOU BELIEVE IN AN afterlife, then one reason my friend Steve Territo died yesterday is to hold the good tables for the rest of us. And if you knew Steve, you know why that’s apt: I don’t have one memory of him where he’s not laughing, smiling or playfully conspiring. And few people I know, living or dead, are more qualified to slip the maitre d’ something for one with a view.
Steve is the first of my immediate Renaissance Faire tribe to die. Social groups are based on the unstated assumption that its members will remain so; when that proves, inevitably, not to be the case, it rattles everyone’s sense of propriety. Death is wrong, in our stubborn primate way of things; it makes us squint and fumble to adjust the picture. And when that picture is as uproariously life-loving as the Cardiff Rose — each of us as lusty an Elizabethan archetype as we can build for ourselves and each other — Steve’s passing takes on something of Biblical proportions. (Remember when God unmade the universe for forty days and nights? Sort of like that.) As one friend put it, “Steve defined ‘life.'”
But Steve is also the first of my friends to die P.F. — Post-Facebook — and in addition to saving our table he seems to be showing the way toward a new form, or manifestation, of mourning. Our tribe is scattered over most of Northern California and beyond; Steve married and moved to Tennessee a few years ago. Wherever he went, as good men do, he made solid friendships. Watching condolence messages begin to queue is like watching a holographic flower unfold: although we’re all in different rooms, it feels as though we’re all together, remembering and laughing and crying and just sitting in disbelief.
And I hope it feels that way for everyone, at least a little bit. When people die, they leave a soul-shaped hole in the world. Touching the edges through my keyboard doesn’t make the loss any easier. Nothing does. But the electronic handholding helps; at least a little bit.
Zecher tzaddik l’vracha — the remembrance of the righteous is a blessing.