I apologize for taking a hiatus from my blog. Particularly my New York blogging. In fact, I apologize for having spaced them out as far as I have. I fully intend to come right back into my blogging and my travel and continue sharing the journey with you all. I needed to take this small break for myself. To process a loss. To mourn. And to prepare myself for the next chapter. I have done that and now I am ready to share with you this very real and very sensitive piece of my journey.
Last week, the day I left for New York, I lost a dear friend. *Every photo or meme in today’s blog came directly from him and lays out for me his brilliant humor and loyalty* He was such a close friend that the last text I sent him was this:
The text string before that was our version of casual serious. He informed me of his shift to live in the extended care facility and I loved on him. We made lunch plans and carried on the way we do when we know the wall that we are up against but refuse to make defeat our focus. He and I shared such similar backgrounds and jobs that we generally spoke in our own language. It always involved passion, faith and hope with a sprinkle of quiet realism. We would often open our communication with something like, “Got time for a body burying friend?” Because on our initial encounter after having learned of my history he made the comment, “I know we just met but God designed you as my sister long before I knew you. We’re family now. If you ever have a body you just call. I’ll bring the trunk and the shovel.” It was a gesture but it was also a reality that no matter what came we would have each others back. There is no question in my mind that he KNEW in his bones that I loved him and would be there for him.
It’s rare for him to not answer a text from me. But he didn’t… All week. I anguished over it all week. Wondering what was behind the silence. Deep down I knew.
Unfortunately, he had been sick for years. I was well aware of this issue and we had exchanged many dialogs about this very time. We had even made plans to take a trip together in July because, even though we both knew it was an unobtainable goal, we wanted to look forward to our perpetual friendship and joint happiness as the focal point. In spite of our many discussions that we had as his attempt to prepare me, I wasn’t ready. I pushed it to the back of my head and refused to acknowledge it for as long as possible.
For those of you that are unaware of what my job actually was in the military I was a corpsman. And in it’s very simplest of explanations that means those war movies that you watch where they yell “medic,” it was me that came running. I spent my late teen years and early 20s watching people die. In fact, it was my paid occupation. And not that pleasant kind of death where it’s planned and attended to. But brutal, carnal death. Retiring out of that job was one of the most peace bringing things I have ever done in my life and yet there was a certainty in its uncertainty that I will always crave.
I met my friend on the first of the year. It was a gala. He was doing what he did best, philanthropy. Galas were not my thing and he saw me sticking out like a sore thumb. “Rocking a cocktail dress, whisky and tattoos….what branch?” He had recognized something in me. We immediately had a bond that was on speaker and un-explainable. He had served in a very similar role as me in the military. He had seen much of what I had seen. In those two minutes he understood me better than most of the people that I have spent years with. By the end the evening we were sharing money and “joking” about drinking in one another’s kitchens by the end of the week. During the gala I witnessed him giving multiple people money when they were short at a cash bar or even just when they asked for it. His heart was so pure and his smile full of life and love. We exchanged numbers and I knew that I had a lifelong friend. The next day he called me first thing in the morning because he wanted to reassure me that our discussions had not been the whiskey taking. He invited me out to lunch and told me how much he already valued my forever friendship. I accepted the invitation to lunch but was shocked when I got there and was delivered the news that he was terminally sick with cancer. He gave instruction not to breathe a word of it to anyone. And I didn’t. We bonded more over that lunch then we had the night before and more than I have with most people in my world. We discussed; who his emergency contact was, what the plan was for his beneficiaries, what his intention was for his house, his end game and so much more. Just after that lunch he sent me this quote:
Following that lunch we made it a point to speak almost daily. For hours at a time on the phone. We co-wrote articles and exchanged written ideas all day every day using email, text and phone calls. He would send videos of he and his boys talking to me and my kids to keep the communication personal and I would respond in kind. And what a hidden blessing that ended up being because after his death my kids and I must have re-watched those, laughing out loud with them, a million times. He would always joke that friends would help you move your couch and good friends would help you move the body.
He would defend me in any circumstance. He would call me when he felt misheard, misunderstood or like he was pushing the edge of even his own envelope. I would tell him about the men that I was dating and he would respond by meeting them and identifying whether or not they were; dolphin, tuna or fish (read; sheep, sheepdog and wolf analogy.) Most of the conversations culminated in him reminding me that we are the sheepdogs and God forbid if he thought they were a wolf. There was never a time that we spoke that I wasn’t moved to the depths of my core by one of his many insights. And there was never a time that he stopped working. He was a warrior that refused to stop fighting. Not just for himself and his health but he fought for everyone. He created multiple nonprofit initiatives and helped everyone behind the scenes that he could. He never asked for recognition. One of his very last quotes was:
And that he did. His life held more depth in his short 46 years than the majority of people I have ever come across.
Recently, a girlfriend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. It has since been removed and she is fighting with strength and grace through the chemo to make sure it stays removed. Her diligence, love and candor for life strikes me and inspires me daily. But I humbly and selfishly submit that this week has been a real struggle for me. I watch her through her fight, standing tall and leaning into joy and laughter. Just like I watched him fighting with integrity and happiness every day until the day death won. Neither of them ever complaining. Neither one of them asking for pity or help. They just fight. And somehow they LOVE life. There is always a smile on their face. Both of them celebrating others through every step. Simultaneously I am watching people who are complaining over their first world problems. People are not just angry over; money, friendships and desires but they are allowing it to consume them and to drive their lives and their calendars. This week and this realization has been a real struggle for me. Where is the gratitude? I implore you to live into your life! Find the joy that was designed for us all. Show appreciation to the people that are fighting for you to have that choice by enjoying what is being presented to you. THIS LIFE REALLY IS THAT SHORT. What is stopping you from enjoying it’s every morsel? It truly is a matter of priorities and a choice.
I miss my friend. I miss his joy, his smile and his leadership. I miss his mentor-ship and the way I could always trust what he guided me towards. His death has brought up a lot of memory and emotion in my world that has hurt to process. But the truth is that I certainly needed to re-process those emotions and those losses. I certainly could use the reminder that this life is short and that we live in an uncontrolled abundance that we should be effortlessly grateful for. I took this last week to process all of that and more. I took this last week to mourn, appreciate and re-learn from all those young peers, my friends, my family that I have lost so prematurely. It sometimes seems like God takes all the greatest of “men” to early. And then, in my reflection, I can appreciate that we all have our intended design and purpose. I can only hope and pray that I am doing my absolute best to live into mine. I hope that I am motivating and inspiring you all into; love, enjoyment of life and recognition of self-worth. You deserve that and so much more!
As always I look forward to interacting with you. I want to hear your feedback, both positive and negative. I would love for you to; like, share and hit follow. Above all I am looking forward to experiencing this journey with you.