Tuesday got off to a rough start this week. Archie woke up ornery and stressed out. Something was bothering him and we couldn’t figure out how to get him on track. He stomped off at one point, crying. I followed him to our bed, laid down next to him and tried to reason, reassure, sympathize. He calmed down, but he also muttered “this is the worst day of my life.”
Such a comment is ironic from any five year old, especially because it was barely 7 AM, but in this case also because the worst day of my life was on the same date, May 4, fifteen years earlier. It was a Thursday, and it was the day I found out my childhood friend, Aron Sobel, had been killed in a bus crash in Turkey the day before. I first heard it from a friend, but accepted the news only when my father called to confirm it. I remember the phone conversations, where I was, how I reacted. But I also remember the day before, May 3, 1995. I remember feeling God that day.
I was working at the Law Offices of Gerard Dunne, a generally miserable experience. That afternoon the only other person in the office was Sue, a 40-something divorcee with a penchant for talking about her spirituality, wearing fire-red lipstick and drinking Chardonnay. Of the other employees at the LOGD, she was the most pleasant.
My office had a window to the outside, but I was sitting in a chair near Sue’s desk in the central, interior area of the office. I don’t remember what we were talking about, though a typical conversation was usually a hodgepodge of anecdotes relating to our boss’s latest temper tantrum, excerpted wisdom from Sue’s latest self-help novel, and complaints about my needy girlfriend. Though it was the middle of the afternoon on a warm spring day in Manhattan, a cloud cover created a darkness that abruptly overtook the room. I could barely make out Sue’s face. The room was hazy. Objects became pixilated.
As this was happening I told Sue that I suddenly felt very tired. It was more than that. I felt a rushing out from my body, I felt my limbs turn to rubber, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, my brain was numbed, I had no thoughts other than I am feeling energy, I am feeling it move out of this room. The sensation lasted only a minute or two. The numbness left. The shadows exited the room, sunlight returned.
Sue asked if I was okay. I was fine. Aron wasn’t. At that very same moment his bus was plunging off a cliff somewhere in Turkey, he was taking his last breath, and 5,000 miles away I felt him exit this world. I have never again had the physical sensation I felt that day, that moment.
Aron and I entered the world on the same day – July 18, 1969. I was always proud of that, proud of the association. It has now been 15 years without him. I don’t even think we were best friends exactly, but we were like brothers to each other and we shared moments that are some of the clearest and happiest memories of my childhood. And in his final moments on Earth, Aron gave me something nothing else ever has: A tangible connection to the life-force that binds all of us together. I called it God here, but I don’t know anything about God. I only know what I felt.
The sun came up the day after the worst day of Archie’s life, and in the evening he suggested we order Mexican food in honor of Cinco de Mayo. The holiday is not widely celebrated in Mexico outside of Puebla, but what the hell. We’re all connected.
For more information about Aron Sobel and ASIRT, the foundation established by his mother to lobby for safer international road travel, please visit www.asirt.org.