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Circle round everyone, for it has been a hell of a spell. I’m tuckered out from hand-sawing pallets, but I need to get my fingertips typing again before they forget how.

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March saw multiple planes touch down in Sitkatown laden with friends. The only problem I have ever found with majestic, job-abundant Alaska is the distance from my beloved chums. The oncorhynchus ketas are close, but many of my homies live far away. Have I mentioned how much I love my friends? As stated on my “About” page: I keep the company of an extraordinary group of intelligent critical thinkers who know how to properly celebrate existence.

And it’s the truth. You wouldn’t believe the fantastic bastards I know. People that can make me laugh until I cry and require a trouser change. While most of them are still scattered skeltery across the globe, a select few convened on Sitka for the sailor rodeo of Herring 2010.

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There were beers, bars, wines, fires, sunsets, dinners, knitters, sinners, soilers, shawties, coffees, fishes, scales, salts, slumbers, vans, totes, tapes, shacks and dances.

In the middle of some of the best times, I got news that spun me around and made me cry. Brother-in-law TJ died and only days after he and Ananda officially announced her pregnancy. They had just returned from celebrating their 5-year anniversary in Jamaica.

To grasp reality from so far away and during such a frenzied fishery was almost impossible. But with 12 hours working in a solitary shack every night, I spent a lot of time trying. He died on a snowy mountain pursuing a passion, and that resonated deeply. He wasn’t sitting, waiting, wasting time; I don’t think he was capable of any of those things.

I didn’t feel sad for TJ. My guts ached for the thought of all of us living without him. Over and over, I thought of Ananda and a baby who will know its father only by stories and pictures. TJ’s mother and father and sisters, aunts, uncles, best friends. That the loss should feel so deep is a mark of the man he was. I felt like some cosmic equalizer should have taken instead someone wasting their life – a sitter, a waiter, a for-granted taker – not this incredibly kind and appreciative expectant father.

But that’s not how it works. If you’re scared to do anything, you might stay safe, but you have wasted everyone’s time. If you live like TJ did, you risk more, but you leave a wake of people who are grateful to have known you even briefly.

I missed the memorial in St. Maries, but I said my goodbyes one morning after work – drinking a beer and watching the sun rise over the snow-covered mountain peaks.

I’m still not comfortable with mortality – its proximity and non-discrimination, but I know it’s the counterbalance that gives life its edge and sweetness. Anyone I know could be gone tomorrow, and I strive to remember that – not to be morbid, but to pressure myself to engage in every day and every interaction.

More than ever, I resolve to appreciate my friends, my family and my fortunate place on this grand-ass planet.

TJ

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