New Year’s Eve…

As the drunken revelers celebrated and watched J Lo shake her money-maker in a flimsy unitard…we shared a much more somber evening.  Close friends and family members gathered to remember Stephen, who passed unexpectedly this week. 

Tuesday night was the norm in our house.  Rushing in from work and heading to the gym with the family to get a quick work out in before dinner and the bedtime routine with the kids.  The hubby and I took separate cars with the plan that I would get home a little earlier to get the kids settled with dinner and he and I would eat together with take out subs.  I didn’t think anything of it when I heard the garage door open, announcing my husband’s return.  When my greeting was returned with heart wrenching sobs, only then did I suspect that something was terribly wrong.  Our little ones gathered around us, confused and scared as we clung to each other in grief.

I have only had the experience of losing a friend from high school when I was a sophomore in college.  That event was marked more by disbelief and numbness.  This pain was raw and peppered with anger at how unfair it was, sadness for his beautiful bride, joy for having known him and the realization that our lives would be forever changed from this point forward.

Steve was a mentor to my husband, a father figure, a confidant and dear friend.  They shared many passions that included golfing, running, sharing a great bottle of wine, listening to eclectic music and an affinity for working hard and playing harder.  I was lucky to watch this friendship and business partnership blossom over the years.  We had the privilege of sharing meals, laughter and a genuine camaraderie with a core group of friends that comes around once in a lifetime.

We watched Steve and his wife Cindy settle into blissful harmony as they met and forged a life together.  We were blessed to be invited to their home two years ago on New Year’s Eve to witness their marriage vows.  Finding true love late in life, they embraced their integrated families, their love of all things New England sports, travel and never wasting a moment.  They were the perfect complement to one another with Steve cheering Cindy on as she dug deep with her involvement in the Navy and Cindy waiting for Steve at the finish line of his latest marathon.

Our group filed into Cindy and Steve’s home last night with food and drink in tow.  We made a promise to Cindy to surround her with laughter, stories of Steve and the comfort of a shared love that we had for a man who will never know the impact that he had on so many people.  We all kept waiting for Steve to round the corner with another bottle of wine to share with his friends.  We toasted him, hugged and cried as we individually tackled the beginning of our mourning process.

My husband and I had the conversation with our girls about “never going to bed angry or leaving without a kiss and hug goodbye”.  It is never too early to begin appreciating all the little moments that mean so much when spread out over the course of a lifetime.

Today was a day of rest and reflection as we prepare ourselves to say goodbye.  My husband always complained that having a birthday on January 3rd was a let down.  So close to New Year’s, no one was ever in the spirit to celebrate.  This year, he will be burying one of his best friends on his birthday.   Life will go on and Tim will turn another year older.  Nothing will fill the hole that has been left behind.  One thing is for certain, Steve lives within our hearts and has become a part of the fiber of who we are.  Steve will be with us when we are sharing a glass of red wine, shanking a ball on the back nine, formulating a business plan or hugging our spouse just a little bit longer before leaving for work.

God hasn’t shared his reasons for taking you so soon Steve.  None of us were ready.  We promise to be there for Cindy and continue living.  As we echoed last night, “because that’s what Steve would have wanted”.  Much love.

Stephen Schwaber (1956-2009)