With all of the recent discussion about the loss of loved ones and appreciating what and who you have, it’s really gotten to me and made me sit down and reflect about the general idea of loss.  Not sure if it’s a good thing that I have never truly lost someone close to me to death, or if it’s a sad thing I haven’t had enough people in my life that mattered to have actually lost one.

Obviously at my age, I have lost 3 of my grandparents; both paternal and my maternal grandfather.  I never met my paternal grandmother and have only a handful of memories of my grandfather, most of which weren’t exactly the most pleasant as the majority of them revolve around him laying on the couch, drinking and smoking while watching TV.  He gave me a few gifts that are some of my most prized possessions because of their sentimental value, but no real happy memories involving the man himself.  My maternal grandfather is another foggy memory, as he too has been dead for close to 2 decades.  The only memories I have revolve around him constantly yelling and belittling everyone around and I honestly never even recall seeing the man smile.  What little I do know about him is generally tainted by family stories about him involving drinking, smoking, an ill temper, and an insane amount of obscenities.  So obviously, their funerals weren’t exactly the saddest events of my life given I never had a chance to get to know them, let alone become close.

I have obviously seen my fair share of death.  People I knew from high school and college have passed away thru various ways throughout the years.  A close coach, a decent enough friend in high school, a ref I worked with in England, a former teammate…  As much as I mourned their losses and the profound effects they each had on me, none of them were someone I would consider close or an irreplaceable friend.  Not to take away anything from the meaning of their lives or the quality of their character, just that none of them were integral parts of my life.

The closest I’ve come to dealing with the death of a loved one was that of 1 of my closest and oldest friend’s mothers.  His name was Michael Artis, and his mother, Margaret Elaine.  Upon moving to Atlanta, I was faced with a level of diversity I had never seen before growing up outside of Cleveland, Ohio, where the general population was 99% white.  Instead of shying away from the different races, for whatever reason, they became the main core of my group.  Michael being  African-American, Duy being Vietnamese, and Varun being Indian.  The 4 of us played basketball every morning before school and as often as possible every day after.  I’m sure we were quite the scene as we obviously were the epitome of a melting pot of friends.  Michael and I have stayed closest throughout the years and I was even a groomsman in his wedding several years ago.  But all the while, every time I would call the house to speak with him, as he had a terrible habit of never answering his cell in his adult years, and obviously we had no such things in high school, his mom would always answer.  And every time I would ask to speak with Michael and she would lecture me for not asking how she was and what was going on and we would end up talking for 10-15 minutes before she would even put him on the phone.  Looking back, I wish I would have spent a little more time with her and taken a bit more advice from her, but regardless, she was a strong motherly figure in my life and really had an impact.  My last memory of her was at Michael’s wedding and seeing her dance with her son while beaming with pride as the proudest mother in the world.  The fact that she got Michael to dance, let alone well, was a miracle!  But not long after that, Michael moved to Denmark, and a few months later, myself to Australia.  While overseas, I received a message from Michael:  “I’m not one to put my really personal stuff all over Facebook, so I figured I’d send a quick message to you. Mom had been in the hospital for a month now…(complications with a surgery and she passed)  Sorry to drop this on ya, since we hadn’t talked in a while, but you know mom loved ya like you were her own. Figured you should know, even though we haven’t had a chance to chat much since I’ve been over here, and you in Australia.”  I remember I was on Skype with my girlfriend back in Atlanta when I received that.  My heart literally broke.  Not too often I hear someone “loved me as their own”, and in today’s society with everything being public, him having the respect and care to reach out to me and tell me privately… I cried.  I don’t weep often, but I definitely shed tears for her several times and am even tearing up a bit just thinking about it.  It killed me I couldn’t be home for the funeral, nor to be there for my friend and his family in their time of need.  That was my only true close encounter with death.

I had a girlfriend on and off again from 2006 thru 2009.  To say it was tumultuous and regrettable would be, perhaps, the biggest understatement of the century.  She turned down to be a habitual liar with a severe drinking and drug problem.  I personally bailed her out of jail twice and decide to let her sit there a 3rd time.  She had been arrested prior to us dating and from what I understand, several times after.  I was oblivious to all of her issues while we dated, or at least during the initial phase, and by the time I discovered the truth, I was in love and it was too late.  In the middle of all of this mess, we had a really good run.  I spoke with her several months ago, and we both still recall a special weekend as 1 of the happiest and most romantic weekends of our lives. And as things go… She got pregnant.  But the day I found out she was pregnant, was one of the days I had to bail her out of jail.  Not exactly off to a great start.  Had heard allegations of her cheating, but all I knew was she was pregnant and told me the child was mine.  Suddenly, the dream of playing professional basketball wasn’t killed, but rather over-taken by a more powerful and better dream… Becoming a father.  I did everything I could to get myself ready and become the man my child could be proud of.  Absolutely nothing else mattered besides the child, and her.  But… Her drinking continued.  I remember taking her the following week back up to Helen to deal with her charges, and after we stopped for a romantic meal.  She claimed to be a child psychologist before she became a successful model, and she tried to sell me on the “fact” that alcohol in moderation was OK during the first trimester as it didn’t hinder development in any way.  I begged her not to drink, even told the waitress not to give it to her, but… Her alcoholism prevailed.  She only had 2 glasses in front of me, but the 2 times I  used the restroom and when I went to pay the bill, she would order another glass and try and chug it before I returned.  Absolutely killed me.  I tried and tried to get her help, had a huge falling out with my mother over defending her and my unborn child, but she refused.  And then, in her typical way one evening at my place after I had gone to bed, she got drunk. Came upstairs and started picking a fight.  A lot of other unrelated, crazy happenings occurred, but the end result was her calling a friend and leaving.  After leaving my place, she met with another friend at a local gas station, and upon leaving, she was struck by a drunk driver.  As soon as the cops showed up, she told them she was pregnant and was bleeding and needed to go to the ER.  I knew nothing of any of this until the following day when she called to tell me what all had transpired.  That call… Worst moment of my life.  I collapsed.  Spending my life with her would have been a colossal mistake and a child coming from her womb would have probably been a disaster, but regardless, all I have ever wanted was to be a father, and losing that child… There are no words to describe that.  It’s something no person should ever have to go thru and I would never, ever, wish it on my worst enemy.  Looking back, she most likely wasn’t even pregnant and it was just an elaborate fabrication to go along with her other lies, but regardless, the love I felt and the plans I had with that baby… That loss… that loss is something I don’t know if I’ll ever get over.  And something I can never forgive her for.  Actually at a loss for words after talking about this…

Time has a way of taking its toll on friendships and is another form of loss.  I am often criticized for trying too hard for several of my friendships.  That when someone has wronged me, I should just turn my back on them and forget they ever existed.  Several friends hate each other and I’m often told I’m the only thing any of them have in common and am the glue of several groups of friends.  I keep in better contact with friends around the world then some do with each other who are right down the street in the same city.  When I find a friend worth keeping, that has something unique and special about them, some quality that reaches out to me, I fight for them.  Even if they screw me over in whatever way, I can’t help but to focus on their good qualities and the benefit their friendship brings to my life.  Not to say I talk with every person that matters to me on a daily, or even regular basis, but I like to think those that matter to me, know it.  I’d say there’s probably about 50 people that I stay in regular contact with, at least on a weekly basis and keep up with their lives.  Sometimes it’s more of a give than take relationship, but regardless, their friendships matter and I don’t want to lose them.  Even the friends who have slipped away because of whatever circumstances, they’re still thought about, reflected upon, and in most cases, missed.  The way my mind works, just about every single person who has ever had even the slightest impact on my life goes thru my mind on a daily basis.  Hell, out of nowhere, a girl I met who for whatever reason really stood out and took the time to exchange a few letters with me back in 1998, I just found her on Facebook and sent her a friend request and a short message.  My mind doesn’t forget someone worth remembering.  So, regardless of people not being in my life anymore, they’re still thought about and our friendship mourned.

And on that note… Someone willingly leaving my life has a greater impact than someone passing and being taken from it.  You can’t cheat death.  I like to think I would fight tooth and nail and would find a way to fight it in order to be there for someone who needed me, especially for someone I love and to keep a promise I made.  I’ve dated probably more women than just about any friend I know.  And dating means just that; dating, conversation, feelings… not necessarily sex.  Actually, more often than not, that line was never crossed as that level of intimacy has a certain level of meaning to me and demands respect and should only be shared with someone you truly care about.  But, someone leaving my life willingly, it kills me.  Given my past, which I won’t get into in this entry, love and a family means the world to me.  It is literally the end-all and be-all of my life.  And to have someone I love and cherish that much willingly leave me, despite the above mentioned trauma, that is the biggest pain I’ve ever had to deal with.  I’ve been close with several women and thought I had a legitimate future with several of them, but one always stood out more than any other.  And she’s been my closest friend for a decade.  A total life-changer.  Literally saved my life on more than one occasion, and has always been the friend I needed… not necessarily wanted at times, but needed.  She was always “the one”.  Every single person in my life that has spent more than 10 minutes with me knows about her.  We spoke about every facet of life and somehow the talk of a funeral was brought up and how everyone at a recent one knew her because of how highly the recently deceased spoke of her.  The same would be the case if I passed away anytime soon.  Guarantee everyone would want to meet her and thank her for being the friend she was for me throughout the years.  To meet the woman who changed my life and made it one worth living.  Our friendship probably crossed several lines throughout the years, and not many people got why we fought so hard to stay in each others’ lives, but we always understood each other.  One of my favorite quotes from her, “I see you and you see me.  That’s all that matters.”

She was always “the one” since the day we met.  I knew that as fact as much as I knew the world to be round and the sky to be blue.  And almost a year ago, I had my world rocked as for the first time, that was questioned.  I met someone.  Someone who changed my life.  Gave me everything I ever asked for, needed, and a plethora of other things I had no clue would mean so much.  She gave me love.  Affection.  Happiness.  Her family became the family I yearned for growing up.  Sitting around the dinner table as her and her sister argued and picked at each others’ plates.  The father treated me as a son and treated me with respect, love, and adoration.  We shared drinks together, spoke about travel, talked about my future with his daughter and received his blessing for our marriage as he had never seen her so happy.  He was the first father I ever bought a beer for.  I remember being insanely nervous and having absolutely no clue what to say as I sat the drink down in front of him at the pub.  The mother also embraced me as her own.  Cooking for me, doing the dishes, washing my laundry and always making sure there was dessert there after tea.  I was told the sister had a lot of issues and weird idiosyncrasies and really didn’t feel comfortable around anyone and would never let anyone touch her food or share her candy, but within a few weeks times, treated me like her brother.  Met all of the grandparents and heard about all of their Sunday dinners.  Went to a family function and was welcomed.  Worked with the cousins and helped them with basketball.  It was a family.  A real-life family.  I never knew anything like this could ever really exist.  When I left England to come home, not only did I cry because I was going to miss the love of my life, I was going to miss my family… the one thing I had spent my whole life searching for.

So when people tell me I try too hard, to give up and move on  and simply forget about her, I just shake my head and say I can’t.  Not only did I lose the woman I waited my whole life for, I lost a sister, a father, a mother, grandparents, family… I lost my future.  I lost my life and everything that really mattered in it.  That was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, and when that happened, I lost myself.  I miss that guy… And if I don’t try “too hard”, what chance do I have?!

So to say I understand loss would be an understatement.  I may not have lost as many people as most, may not have had to deal with a tragedy like recent events, and may not have had to deal with death so close to home like so many others have had to bare, but… In my world, with how my mind works, with how i feel about things, I have lost something that means an infinite amount more… I lost love.

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