"I miss you," I said.
"Remind me your name one more time," he said with a smile.
"Be serious," I tried to be solemn but how could I not return that smile? I challenge anyone in the world to not return that smile.
"I finally figured out how we knew each other." I said, "I figured it out seconds after I heard the news."
"Yeah, I knew all along. It was just funny listening to you try to figure it out all the time."
"I miss you," I said again. "But, why are you here? There are so many people that are broken-hearted and confused. You need to be with them."
"I am," he assured.
"Just like usual," I told him, "you're making me feel like the most important person around. But didn't you know how much you were loved? How many people craved being around you? How many people were there for you?" His eyes were sad but his smile never ceased, just like the night he talked about being a teacher.
"It doesn't work like that," he explained.
"What do you mean?"
He didn't say a word but something clicked and it felt like he thought I had a sliver of understanding because I had once been been lost in darkness.
"You and I got closer every time we saw each other, like our friendship was building and I wanted it to keep building so badly." I stopped and looked down, this whole conversation was selfish but I couldn't help but add, "I needed more laughter. I can still hear your laugh so clearly. I wanted more time."
He quietly hugged me.
"Did you think of me?" I cried into his shoulder. "Did I ever come up as someone you could talk to? Someone that would miss you? I was just a blip on the periphery of a beautiful life. You could have talked to me about your pain and never seen me again. It could've been our secret. I could've held your burdens for you, if only for a moment."
"Of course I didn't think of you."
"Then why now? Why think of me now?"
"Because you needed me to. Because the fog is gone. My confusion is replaced with light."
"You were always a light for everyone else. You were so bright, so handsome, so merry."
"And I know now that I had light all around me. But I lost sight. I see now. I see the pain I caused and the confusion I left behind. I want to alleviate as much as I can, but it will take time."
"It's true, you know," he continued.
"That poem you love, except it doesn't mention the course. And this..." he said as he pointed goofily to his own grin, "this money maker is going to be beams of sunlight shining over a perfect round."
He laughed and the very room became brighter. His eyes gleamed and his smile radiated.
I locked that laugh away for every time I needed it. We embraced.
And in that moment I knew I loved him, though I had no right to, though it made no sense. Whether I was drawn to something flawed just behind the bright eyes or attracted to the light of his grin, I knew that he had always been important to me. And just as I claimed it I started to wake up.
"But wait, wait, I am angry with you. And if I am this upset, your friends your family, your loved ones that I love... how are they supposed to heal? You left behind hearts that are devastated."
He was gone and I knew it was just a dream, but it left behind a knowledge I hadn't had before. I was not angry with him, I was angry with what took him. And I knew with certainty then that the part I was angry at died. The demon illness that won in the short term had died that day; but his true light, the light almost too brilliant for this world, lives on. It brings joy in people's favorite memories and stories. It inspires songs to be written and friendships to be forged. It lives in the hearts of those of us who know we are better for having known him.
Even if, like me, we only had the blessing of knowing him for the smallest blip of time.
And as the morning's sun shone through the windows, the poem he mentioned came into my mind and I knew that it was true...
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.