As strange as this may sound, as far back as I can remember in my life I can always remember seeing the beauty in tragedy. I remember seeing the beauty of pain. The beauty in knowing something you care deeply for, something special, something unique, something genuine, ever existed in the first place and that you were lucky enough to know it.
I am conflicted.
In December 2011, a friend of mine, John, was shot in Los Angeles. He was sitting in his car. He was on the way to the bank to pick up additional funds for holiday bonuses. From my understanding he was shot 3 times, by a total random stranger randomly shooting at people in the street. (Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.) He died a few days later. His funeral was on my birthday, December 21.
When I first learned about John’s death, I was at my apartment laying in bed. I was upset about something that I don’t even remember what it was, so I’m sure it was silly and stupid. I had a few missed calls from my mom and my sister but I hadn’t returned the calls back yet – I just didn’t feel like talking. While I was laying there, my sister called again except this time I answered, she said..
“Mom’s been trying to call you all day, you haven’t answered.”
“I know, I’m sorry, just having a bad day.”
“Ohh. So did you hear what happened in LA?”
“You didn’t hear about the crazy guy randomly shooting at people?” I stood up and my heart began to race.
“Well…” as she started to speak, I started to run through a list in head of all the friends and people I know in Los Angeles. I was pacing in the bedroom, walking back and forth along the window. “Well… mom thinks it was your friend, John.”
I was quick to respond, “What?! John?!” Nothing was making sense to me.
“Wendy, John died today.”
“What?! No! Maybe it was someone else…” I reached for my lap top.
“John, 40 years old, music exe..” I didn’t believe her, not because I think it’s something she would lie about but because I just couldn’t believe it, I typed his name in and hit google, news stories came up everywhere and I crumbled and cried. “I’m so sorry, Wen. I know he was your friend.” I couldn’t speak, I hung up and put my head in my hands and cried. I felt things that I never felt, things I thought I would never feel. I felt loss – the worst kind, the unexpected loss. I felt regret, regret in that the last time John reached out to me, I didn’t call him back. I felt this uncontrollable yearning, I wanted to see him, I wanted to talk to him so bad. I called his phone, nothing. I sent him a text and nothing. It didn’t matter how long I sat there and starred at my phone, or how tightly I clutched it, he was never going to answer, I was never going to a get a response and that despair is shattering. It breaks you. I cried for the rest of the night. I cried when I woke up and I cried everyday for many days following. I was thinking about him this past weekend, on Saturday night and I cried and as I write this, I am fighting back tears.
John and I met in 2006. I was in LA with a couple of my friends, Gina and Pauly. I met John at a bar, I don’t even remember the name of the bar but I remember the events that took place. It was a particularly funny night to me because while I was talking with John, a girl came up to me and said “I’m sorry to interrupt but is your name, Wendy?” I answered, “yes.” She said, “Don’t you remember me? We went to grade school together?!” So, that was funny just because I never thought I’d run into someone I had lost contact with and was in grade school with at a bar in Los Angeles. I remember John thinking it was particularly funny. So John ended up hanging out with me and my friends for the rest of the night. In fact, the most fun I ever had out in LA was always with John. We would go to 40 Duce (here’s a taste: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNNk3eH6Ix8) and Xenii which was a private members only club that changed locations every weekend. But sometimes, I’d go over to his house and we’d have lunch and just talk politics. John was conservative but I’m liberal so we’d always have great discussions and sometimes, I even got him to agree with me on certain topics. Or sometimes just on saturday night, instead of going all out, he’d just take me to Lola’s where all his friends came and we’d stay extra late, laughing with friends and bartenders. John was fun and he was funny. He had this charm, this smile that just lit places up. Another time, we went horse back riding – we were exhausted at the end of our ride, it was like 100+ degrees out. And the past few years, we didn’t keep in touch as much as we had in the past, he started dating a girl whom he loved and no one ever believes you when you say “we’re just friends” (although we were) so our friendship didn’t stay intact the way same sex friendships do. But I remember the last time I heard from John, it was about a month before his passing, I was in Chicago, walking to Old Town to meet a friend for lunch, I remember reading his text, “Hey! Just checking in with you, want to know how you’re doing, hit me back!” and how happy I was to hear from him because it’d been a few months since we last spoke. I remember thinking to myself, I’ll call him as soon as I’m done with lunch and I forgot. My forgetfulness and my stupidity added to my pain when I heard of his loss, John always use to say to me, “You forget about me. You don’t mean too, you just do.” and the truth is, sometimes in a moment I do but as a whole, I’ve never forgotten about John, I remember more things about John than I remember about most people. But those words added to my grief.
It’s been almost 2 months since John’s death and while I am sad about his death, it’s circumstances, I am blessed and I am lucky for having known such a wonderful, good heart-ed, person. John was unlike any other male friend I’ve ever had in that, he was an actual friend and he was happy being my friend. I trusted him in a way I trust few people in my life. John was a smart man, he was a good man to everyone. I cant imagine anyone meeting him and not being taken by who he was.
My point in writing this is everyday is truly a gift and we do not know when our time is up. Pick your battles wisely. That being good is hard – being a good person is very hard but take pride in who you are, take pride in your work. And dont ever forget to take time out for the ones you love most because one day you might regret it.
“All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.”