So, my first "best friend" died today.
I don't really know how to process this too well. Essentially, Steve was diagnosed with leukemia, and within 48 hours, he died. He was 33. He has a newborn at home. He got married just a few years ago. Julia and I got to see him and his wife Robin last summer, and they took us out in Nashville.
It's obviously not fair. That child will grow up not knowing that his father was a great, great guy. Steve won't have the luxury of being there to see his son find his own Dukes of Hazzard. Steve's parents have to put their own child in a grave next week. My mom is struggling with this a great deal too, as she and Sue are still great friends.
I struggle a great deal with death. I never know how to process it well. I think about how much that person meant to me, and how they impacted my life. But just like so many other people, tomorrow, or the next day, life goes on, and we lose the ability to have that person's life, or death, impact us in a way that it should.
So I'm trying to choose to celebrate what Steve meant to me. He was a great, great friend. From the moment we moved in to Orchard Downs in 1981, until he moved to San Antonio six or seven years later, we were best friends. His parents took me in a lot while my mom was working and doing her studies. In so many ways, he was more a brother for me than anything else. So many children of single parents struggle with the fact that their parent is gone a lot of the time. I never had to deal with that, because the Andersons took me in without question.
Steve and I would play catch, race big wheels, and yeah, we watched the Dukes of Hazzard every Friday night. I would delay going to my Dad's house specifically so I could watch it with Steve.
He played on my softball team when he came back here to the U of I to do some graduate studies. I got to go to his wedding in Atlanta a few years ago, just an incredible ceremony...
I don't know what else to say. Today I'm running a 5K. It's the first time I've been lucky enough to run a race since ripping up my hamstring last August. I have bitched and moaned about it, and so many other issues in that time. Meanwhile, a friend who I think so highly of, and impacted me in so many ways, thinks he's dealing with allergies for months...
I think over the last three or four years, I've done a very good job of making sure I focus on living in the moment, and celebrating the good things that happen. It's been a drastic change for me, as I know I can be an extremely negative person, and get bogged down when things don't go my way.
These are definitely the moments that reinforce that all the therapy, study, and personal work I've done have been for good reasons. To celebrate your good times. Remember that having enjoyable, laughable, romantic, emotional moments are so much more fulfilling than just complaining about your job, or how you didn't get enough sleep, or whatever. I have to remember that tonight, when I'm running that 5K, and my knees start to ache a little, or my hamstring feels like it's not 100% again. I'm here, I'm doing something that I love to do, and just focus on that.
I know I'll be fine. The initial shock of the last hour is the tough thing, along with the services in the next week or so. After that, the sting of loss goes away, and what you're left with are some wonderful memories of a kid who meant a lot to you then, and an adult who made an impact on so many.
So to his wife Robin, son Charlie, parents Sue and Charlie, and sister Kristen, I send my sincerest thoughts and love. I can't imagine the difficulty that the next week will bring. I wish I could do more to help ease it, although the knowledge that Steve meant so much to so many will comfort you in some way.
To Steve, thank you. You have been a great friend. I admire you in so many ways. We both dealt with some pretty difficult circumstances growing up, living in the Downs. It wasn't glamourous. But I think we both made the best of it, and had some spectacular times. I remember crying my eyes out at my Grandparents house the day you guys moved to San Antonio. Seeing you as an adult, and how you've matured, and become a great man...it's inspiring. You made quite an impact, and I will miss you.
To myself...focus, Mike, on things more important than yourself. You've done a great job of being better with this in the last few years. Try to continue to improve upon this. You have many large challenges facing you in the next couple of years. Tackle them, deal with their difficulty, and celebrate the experiences.
It has been a while.....
5 weeks ago