Yesterday my friend passed away.
It's been a while (fortunately) since I've endured the loss of a friend or family member, and for that I'm grateful. And, I write about my friend today because in his passing I've been gifted with a lesson (albeit one that's been repeated time and time again by others).
It's not uncommon to hear others remind us to tell our loved ones how much we love them. To cherish moments because you never really know when your time, or a loved one's will be up. Don't take that time for granted. Don't get to bed angry, they say. Inherently, we know all of this is good, sage advice, but that doesn't mean we always take it.
My friend was one of those "life of the party" guys. He went hard. He was loud and crazy and fun and reckless. Ultimately his partying would pave the way for a series of health issues he couldn't overcome, leading to eventual blindness, transplants, and eventually a cancer diagnosis he couldn't beat, ending his far too short visit in life. Deep down, I always knew he was the friend that we would one day get a call about, a call too soon... but you put it off. You put off accepting that reality.
This past year we didn't speak much... maybe not at all? I can't recall. I remember my last text conversation with him. I was urging him to listen to the podcast Serial. At that time, he was newly blind and was looking for ways to keep himself busy. And then the election happened. Everything went to shit... and he went hardcore pro-Trump. I mean... on another level. And I withdrew. The rants were just too much for me to take in, and, I figured we had time. I'd circle back, I thought. He was in a negative head space (not surprising when you're in your 30s and are suffering organ failure and blindness.) He'd get better I thought. He was getting transplants and had moved home to Chicago so his family could help care for him. I didn't know he was keeping the severity of his health secret from most, but looking back, it doesn't surprise me. He didn't want pity. He didn't want many of his friends to know how badly he was suffering. And so we didn't. On Monday I got the message from a friend that he had cancer that had spread to his bones and there wasn't much time. By Tuesday morning we were being told to get our recorded voice messages saying goodbye to his family by noon in hopes that it wouldn't be too late.
I recorded multiple messages. I tried to keep my composure. I tried to make jokes or recall memories. I felt so rushed all of a sudden, to record the last thing I was ever going to say to him. We were told that he was able to listen to our messages... and then passed away in his nap shortly following, and that provides me some comfort.
But he's gone now... and I spent the last year of his life not talking to him. And I mentioned this in my post yesterday, and I think it's important. Politics drove a silent wedge between us, but when I think about all my memories with my friend, none of them revolve around our political views. I recall the first Real World casting call we did in Santa Barbara together. I remember the times he drove me insane on the road, us often butting heads about the best way to set up a venue and who to call back to interview. I remember our late nights of recruiting... there was no better recruiter than him. He had the amazing natural ease of walking up to anyone, anywhere. I remember the time I thought I could out-chug him in a beer chug competition and I swear he swallowed the beer in one gulp before I could even pick up mine to start. I remember the time I told him not to jaywalk, and he did and got a ticket. And, I never let him live it down. I remember the time he carried me to my car and made sure I got home after a night of too many drinks celebrating my birthday. Whether or not he agreed with Obama or Trump... these thoughts didn't cross my mind when I was told he had hours left.. and yet it's these very thoughts that controlled our lack of interaction the last year of his life.
And, that's a lesson for me. And hopefully one for you, before you find yourself in the same boat. A woman said it well on my page yesterday. "Reminds me I need to tell a few friends that while I don't want to be in touch with them right now, I still love them."
At the end of the day, I'm going to remember my friend for who he was as a friend, not who he voted for — something I wish I had given more thought to before his passing.
Sleep easy Burbs.