Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The mess you leave behind...

They say to live life fast and leave a beautiful corpse. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. There are also other things you should leave behind. Or not leave behind.

Leave behind a legacy that doesn't leave people angry, shaking their heads in confusion.

Leave behind family and friends who don't have to leave out the details of your life's ending because it is too painful or embarrassing for them, for your sake and the sake of your cherished memory.

Leave behind tears of joy when you go.

I don't care if your corpse is beautiful or not... no one will. Just make sure the circumstances and situation you leave behind don't add extra pain for those who are going to have to contend with it.

Right now I'm sitting in the wake of tears of joy, anger, screams and shouts.

I am sick to my stomach.

I've been fielding calls from people who have heard, people who don't understand. I'm trying to be helpful to his and his mom. I want to do more to help, because I feel as if I was a miserable failure when trying to help him when he was still here. And perhaps it will make me feel just a tad better.

I am kicking myself for not being there at the door to pick him up from rehab with an iron grip and piercing gaze, and a hug that says "I love you and want to see you make it this time, please please please be good..."

I'm mad as hell at him for telling me on the phone day after day in the last month "Yeah, everything is great! I'm out of rehab and doing super!" Because once again, the lies were easy to believe.

I talked to his sister today, she's trying to arrange to get the contents of his car from the place where the Beverly Police put it -- up in Lowell at the dealership where she got it for him.

We am going to help her get his things. I am waiting to hear back from her as to when we can go to get it.

I want it to be today.

I want to be done with these people from that phase of his life. I had as little to do with them as I could. I know them by name, by sight, and trust me when I confess to you that the first thing on my mind when I think of them is how can I inflict as fast and furious an injury upon them as possible.

But that wouldn't change anything.

My best friend is still dead.

All I want out of there is his guitar, and to see if he kept a journal like I told him he should... His sister wants his computer, because it is valuable monetarily and she doesn't want anyone to profit from his death, even if it is for a couple hundred bucks. I can't blame her at all.

I want to make sure that his mom has the guitar in the end, to do with what she wants. To save as that part of her son which through his good times and his bad times was always constant... Whatever sort of memorial we have, I will ask her for the guitar to have it sitting there unplayed and untouched on a guitar stand. Hopefully we can find it. Hopefully it hasn't vanished. It is such an important icon for me about him, that if it's lost I'll cry and cry. It will devastate me to no end. It's all anyone has left.

One of the funniest memories I have of him involves that guitar. He had taken my position as the helpdesk coordinator at the college when I became webmaster, and really loved working with the kids. He had a long history of youth oriented work with the YMCA and other camps, and working with kids, even college kids, was so important to him.

Work was sometimes no fun, so he decided with a couple other guys who played instruments that they should jam at lunchtime and have some fun. There was an abandoned piano in an empty part of the new building where we were stationed, so he and the kids wheeled it into the helpdesk area and up the stairs.

At lunch, one kid would play piano, he would jam on his guitar, and all they knew how to play was "Wonderwall" by Oasis.

The director of the department caught wind of the piano one day and marched up into the room. The piano was tucked up against the wall when it wasn't being played. At this particular moment, everyone was working. He was standing in the room talking to one of his employees, a student ready to go out into the field to do the thankless dirty work of fixing yet another broken computer on that campus.

The director was angry and pointed at the piano and said "What is THAT doing in here?"

CAL turned and looked, and as if seeing a big pile of jewels or something you wouldn't expect to see sitting in the shop, he yelled 'Ah!!!!! Where'd THAT come from!" with astonishment.

So much so that everyone in the room, except the director, cracked up. I mean, we were peeing laughing. And he was too.

But the director was furious. "Get that out of here..."

He and the kids didn't have the time to justify that it was there only to bring joy to the hearts of the "sled dogs" during their once a day lunch break. It was good while it lasted, but just one of many examples of what he had to deal with, and how his vision of work was different from that of the boss.

Guess who the kids respected more.

Guess who they loved more.

Guess who people miss when he's gone. Yup.

I just got off of the phone with one of the guys who worked for him, and he broke down in tears while we were talking. That kid is working at a major university in the Boston area doing help desk work. He learned so much from him. So much more than any liberal arts college or history professor or math teacher could ever teach him.

I hung up the phone and cried and cried. Oh my God. I can't believe he's dead. I am so sad. I am so sorry for this... I am so going to miss him.

And the thing that is pissing me off more than anything is the loss of potential. The what could have been. What should have been. There are so many people who SHOULD have for years to come enjoyed that kind of mentoring. That kind of friendship. This is so fucking unfair.

He changed lives while being someone's boss. He wasn't just someone's supervisor, the guy you go to and say "uh, whattaya want me to do now, boss?"

He was awesome and wonderful and caring. People wanted to know him. People wanted to work with him. He was so much better than people ever gave him credit for. He changed and helped so many people.

The thing I loved about him was he was all about business when it was time to be all about business. He took work seriously. He taught the kids. Worked beside them instead of supervising over them. He was above them but among them, in the trenches, not in meetings deciding how to incorrectly do things around campus.

But when it was time to just kick back, even a little, he wanted the opportunity to give people joy. And again, he was with them. Enjoying as much as he could with them.

The piano was just one example of how he wanted to make life at the college a more enjoyable place for the guys who busted their asses day in and day out for thankless end users and administrators and faculty who played political head games with one another and the department at the students' expense.

He wanted people to have a nice time. He always recognized that. And no one is having a nice time right now.

So, if your mission in life is to make sure people have a nice time, when you die, do me a big favor, wouldya? Make the circumstances less painful. Make it so they'll cry remembering how wonderful and super you were, recalling funny crap, instead of lamenting what could have been.

Make the loss be just that -- a loss of you, not a loss of you and what could have been in your future.

Don't leave your friends and family saying that it's a crying shame.

By the way, in his drug use, I wanted to make it clear that his heroin use was not via injection.

So if you knew him, don't picture him sitting in a room melting heroin on a spoon and tying off his arm to shoot up. He sniffed it. It's a lot more expensive that way. Always, always the more difficult path for him.

He hated needles. And when he got into this I shook my head and told him that he's the only one in the whole big circle of friends he was making who was a sissy. I didn't want to challenge him to shoot up, I just wanted him to realize he was such a nancy and that perhaps this scene was not for him.

He laughed, and he shrugged and admitted it. He was a nancy when it came to pain. I just shook my head and told him that he had to stop doing this to himself. He stopped laughing, bit back tears, and nodded. "Yeah. I will."

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