The Man Who Loved Shoes

I had a friend who loved shoes.  Not sure if he would approve of these, but since they are the only pair in an interesting photo I have, I thought I'd share.  I had a friend who loved to shop, sing, tell jokes, gossip, make people laugh.  I had a friend, his name is Angel Oramas and he died last week.  I've been struggling since learning of his death to make sense of it, to find the answers as to why.  Of course, there won't be any answers, he himself said the reasons for this are inconsequential.  I had a friend, who took his own life and left behind a legacy of stories and love, laughter and an ocean of tears.
Today there was service in his honor, not a memorial but a a celebration of his life and the service was filled with so many stories of Angel's great sense of humor, his snarky commentaries, his love of all things beautiful in art, music, clothing, food.  I had a friend who came into this world and found it filled with tragedy.  In his short life, he tried to fill his world with beauty, laughter and love.  He was successful yet he had no idea of his impact he made on others.  His death, the fact that he chose to take his life has rocked me to my core.  In his death, I sense my own past sadness and loneliness, the emptiness that used to swallow me up at night.  My empathy and slight understanding of his demons resonates deep within me and at the same time, I have NO idea what drove Angel to the edge of darkness.  I may have thought about going to the edge, and tried a few feeble attempts as a depressed and screwed up teenager, but my depression is cyclical and seasonal.  The worst of it came during my teen and early adult years; more came along in my 20's and 30's, brought on by the bad company I kept, my bad habits, too much drink and not enough therapy.  The nights may be dark and lonely but the sun keeps shining and the earth keeps turning and so we too must go on is this life. 
Of the many things that were said about Angel, the things I was most struck by were the constant references to his friends and music being his family and love of his life.  The celebration of Angel's life was held at the Academy of Music rehearsal hall, a place he spent a lot of time; he was last there on Tuesday night, June 1st for the Opera Company's rehearsal of Orphee &  Eurydice.  There was much talk of Angel's great sense of humor, his jokes, his compassion and whole-hearted work ethic.   My friend would have been most impressed with the turn out, the showing of love and affection, the beautiful reception, with appropriately printed labels for each food item!  I had a friend who loved to throw a great party and spared no expense or took short cuts to when it came to laying out a spread and decorating.

I'm trying to find the meaning in his death.  When other friends of mine have passed, I immediately got the life lessons they taught.  My dear friend Joe Fee, who was my boss from 1992 to 1995 at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, died of leukemia.  Joe was only in his early 40's.  He was the funniest person I ever met, sweet and self-deprecating.  He was also afraid to live life, and consequently, died young without having ever loved, lived or laughed enough. The lesson I learned - don't' be afraid to live. I carry this with me each day.
When Sally, my 93 year old great lady friend died 6 years ago, the lessons  I took from her life and our friendship was that it's never too late to live, to try, to laugh and to love.  Sally worked every day of her life up until the last 4 or 6 months of her life.  When she was the age I am now, 43, she was embarking on the second or third phase of her life.  At age 80, when I met her, she was still vital, running her younger friends ragged.  I have awesome memories of her outlasting my best friend, Rachel and me in Chicago.  We 30-somethings were tired from all the sight seeing; Sally was raring to go and wanted to go out on the town each night.  Lesson learned from Sally - there's always time to do something, go somewhere, or drink a Southern Comfort Manhattan (with 3 cherries!)  
So it's with sadness that I try to make sense of Angel's death.  Maybe the lesson is to believe that you matter and remember to tell people in your life they matter to you.  Part of the lesson is to be more open and honest (Angel, you could be brutally honest, gurl!)  Remember to find beauty in the everyday, it's everywhere if you look.  Laugh and make others laugh too.  Enjoy what you have while you can and help others to enjoy it too.  
I end with words, and inside joke and a prayer for my friend.  Truly - it's a word and adverb he often said and every time I say it, I can hear his high pitched tenor voice - I truly believe you taught me this leading adverb, Angel.  Shoes - the man loved his shoes and kept Zappos in business.  "Fix me a platter of chips, bitch!" was a funny thing we over-heard a friend say, and we added the bitch part to the end. For an entire summer we would say this to each other and pee ourselves laughing. Then Angel met the lady who originally uttered it in all innocence.  She had no idea she said it and that it had become the running joke of the 2001 Spoleto, Italy trip.  Angel, truly went and said to her, "You're the platter of chips lady!"  

Before me peaceful
Behind me peaceful
Under me peaceful
Over me peaceful
All around me peaceful

This is from a Navajo proverb and I say this prayer for you Angel, so that your soul may be at peace, truly. 


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