Sunday, February 24, 2008

Goodbye to a good friend

This post is long overdue but I needed to get a clear head before I put it down. Its a long one and a sad one. Just throwing that out there for the 1-2 people who read my blog...

It was the first Wednesday after the Super Bowl and I was sitting on my couch watching the Heat game with a buddy of mine when I got a call. It was one of my best friends in Miami and I hadnt spoken with him since my Super Bowl trip so I was excited to share the adventure with him. Only when I answered the phone, it wasnt him on the other end of the line. It was his cousin and I knew immediately that it couldnt be good news.

Instead of getting to rehash my Super Bowl stories with the one guy who is a big enough sports fan to understand it, I was listening to his cousin tell me that my friend was in a coma in the hospital. He had a pancreatitis and the doctors also found a large amount of drugs in his system. This shocked me. I knew my friend had a history of stomach problems, but I didnt know that he was using drugs like that. The doctors said his stomach condition plus excessive drinking had lead to the pancreatitis. I was shocked. I didnt even know what to do. It was 11pm and I needed to work the next day. I also loathe hospitals and I didnt want to see my friend hooked up to machines. It brought back flashbacks of the day my grandfather died, a day that still hurts to think about.

The next day I was distraught. I couldnt stop thinking about my friend. I prayed and prayed that he would be ok, but his cousin had told me that the doctors said "it doesnt look good" and to me that meant it was going to be hard for him to pull out of it. I prepared for bad news and struggled with the decision to go visit my friend in the hospital. I told my boss about it and he told me that I should go, at least to support his family. So, I sucked it up and headed to the hospital. The first person I saw was his girlfriend who began crying as soon as she saw me. I gave her a big hug and just held her there for a few minutes. At this point, his mom came down the hall and I soon found myself with both of them in my arms. His mom was such a nice woman and had always liked me from what my friend always told me. Funny thing was that on the previous Friday I had held a bbq for friends because my mom was in town and she told me afterwards that she could see why my friend and I were good buddies because he had the same sense of humor and was a really nice guy. After the initial hugs were over, we walked on down the hall to see my friend.

It was just the scene I had imagined. There he lay, sound asleep with tubes feeding him and keeping him stable while machines monitored his vitals. A nurse came in to check on him and of course we asked how he was doing. She said the same thing I had heard from his cousin a few times previously, "Not good." He was still alive but he was fighting what I concluded was a losing battle. One tube led to a canister that slowly filled up with thick amounts of blood. Then he began to have a little seizure which was followed later on by another little one. It was rough seeing one of my best buds in this sort of shape and not being able to do anything to help. I closed my eyes and tried to think of things to say but I couldnt really put together anything. The mood was really somber. Everyone had a shocked and distraught look on their face. I tried to cut the tension by saying, "Come on dude, you gotta wake up. The Heat finally traded Shaq today!" That got some people to smile and I think it helped lift everyone's mood if only for a second. Those of us that were there started to talk about him and try to figure out what happened and why but that was basically an exercise in futility. His cousin had found him alone in his apartment, so no one really knew what happened. I summed it up as a simple mistake because this was a good kid. I have lost 2 other friends to drugs and both of them were easy to see it coming. Not this kid. He was always a happy guy, always quick to make everyone laugh with a one-liner, always the type of guy who you could take to a party full of strangers knowing that he'd make friends with just about everyone.

Just before I left the hospital, he had a really bad seizure and we were all forced to leave the room. This is when I decided that I needed to prepare for him to leave this world. Im not a pessimist nor an optimist. I am a realist and all the signs and info Id received pointed to him checking out. I went home and tried to sleep but I just couldnt. The next few days were more of the same. Id go out and drink a few bourbons just to try to take my mind off of the situation and hopefully sleep and that helped a bit but it wasnt doing me any good really. My friend was going to die and I knew it. I could just tell. That Saturday I decided that I was going to spend all day cleaning out my closet, a project that Id been blowing off for 2+ years. As I cleaned, I thought about my buddy. I was pissed at him for putting himself in this situation and for sitting in a state like a coin flipping thru the air that leaves you waiting and wondering which side it's going to land on. I wanted closure and was prepared for the worst while praying for the best and I was pissed that I had to wait for an answer. However, the more I cleaned the more I thought about my friend and all the good times we had together. I found all of my old Heat tickets that he and I shared season tickets to and that brought back a lot of good memories. I also found a picture of me, him, and "the dude" that sat next to us all fired up during the Heat's championship playoff run. I kept on cleaning, thinking about my buddy more and more and all of the times we'd hung out watching sports, grabbing a beer, or rehashing the craziness of the job where he and I had met and worked at for 4 years. I never really realized how long we'd been friends until that point. I started thinking about all the times we'd helped each other at work and all the times we argued. That's when I realized what a good friend this guy was. He was always the type to argue his position but in a way that made you see his side without acting like it was his way or the highway. If you did argue with him, he'd say his piece, distance himself for a few, and then he'd be right back to being a friend by sunrise. That's one thing I learned from him. I was always the type to get pissed and hold a grudge but he never did and Im a better person for having learned that. He was also the only other friend I had that was active in the blog community ("the server" was his alias) and we always were discussing issues in the Grove as reported by the Grapevine or overall Miami issues that we'd read and commented about on Stuck on the Palmetto. He was a friend and like a younger brother to me. By the time I was finished on that Saturday, I had been cleaning for 9 hours. I had a kickass clean closet that now helped rid all the clutter of other rooms and I also had all the great memories of my good friend who I was prepared to say goodbye to.

From that moment on, I refused to mope, sulk, or be sad in anyway because I knew that's not what he would want. He'd want me to turn the corner and go back to being his buddy again. I couldnt blame myself for not being there because there was nothing I couldve done. He was a grown ass man who made one bad little decision and unfortunately he didnt get a second chance from the powers that be. Just like he and I used to always say, I couldnt call up Doc and Marty McFly and hop in the Delorian to go back to the future and save him even though I wish I could have. All I could do was pray for a miracle and keep calling his cousin for updates on his condition even if every day was worse news.

The following Saturday, I was in Boston with my family and it was a great break. We were bowling on Landsdowne, right across from Fenway where I had always told my buddy he had needed to make a trip to see what being a Boston fan was all about. He was the only one who could tolerate my love of Boston sports and I even got him on the Sox and Pats bandwagons haha. Right as I prepared for my next roll, I got a text message from his cousin that said my friend had passed away 30 minutes ago. There it was, the closure I was looking for. It didnt make me feel any better at the time but I knew it was the first 1/4 mile on the road to getting over his passing. I was frustrated because I had rolled five 9's in a row to start my game so I was gonna throw this 16lb ball for my buddy so hard that there was no effing way another 9 would come up. Well, whattya know, a strike. Thanks buddy.

I will always remember my friend for all of the good times we shared, the laughs, the arguments, the good times, and for being a kickass friend and person. He taught me a lot even though he was a few years younger that I was and Im forever grateful for that. He was a standup guy, loved his family and loved his girlfriend, and always stuck up for a friend when they were being dragged thru the mud unfairly. I'll never forget how good of a friend he was to me when I needed one and I can only hope to come across another buddy like that someday. For now though, I just miss my friend.

God Bless you man.


Lindsey said...

This is a great tribute to him buddy. You are right...he would just want you to be his buddy. He'll say he's sorry and goodbye in his own way to you too. Who knows...maybe he had a hand in the Shaq trade! I'm sure he treasured you as a friend because you are such a great one...I'm glad to say I know from experience :)

Rachelle said...

Wow, that's really tragic. You're really lucky to have had such a great friend.

Crumbs said...

Nice tribute - take care.

Amanda said...

Very well said.. thank you for sharing this. I hope you keep the good memories alive!

Blind Mind said...

Thanks everyone. I appreciate it.

heat tickets said...

hmm.. i dont know what to say really, but i love the way you write everything about him and you.. its great to have such a good friend..