On November 23, 2012, I started chatting with a gentleman that at the time of us starting to chat I had no idea how much our friendship was going to impact my life. The man was a kindred spirit to me we could chat for hours just about nothing. We talked about our love and wish to travel. We would talk about going on road trips with the top down on the car to the Coast and just sitting and watching the waves. We joked about going to Mexico but neither of us even had our Passport. About a month after we started chatting he asked me if I would be interested in watching TV together but from our own homes. At first I thought this request was an interesting one but I said hey why not but maybe we should meet for coffee first and discuss face to face our likes and dislikes. When we met that December 15th at Starbucks and I just felt so comfortable talking to this man. We were just friends and felt like we had been friends forever. I left that afternoon after us sitting and talking for a couple hours about our children and families just feeling as though I had just caught up with someone I had known all my life.
We would sit and text each other for hours, talking about our children and our families and dreams for travel while watching episodes of “How I Met Your Mother”, “The Big Bang Theory”, and many others. During Christmas that year he told me he would not be available as often because his sons were coming out to visit him and he was so excited about their visit. I loved to hear the tone in his messages when he talked about his boys coming to stay and that they were going to be going to visit his mother during their visit as well. He texted me off and on during their visit and again it was so great to hear how happy it made him to have them there with him.
When the boys went home things started to change with him. About that time is when I found out that he had had Heart surgery back in October and he had been on Medical Leave but was going to be going back to work. He seemed excited but nervous at the same time. We talked a lot and watched shows every night and we would chat back and forth during the shows. It was very nice to have this connection with someone but I never realized that this man had major anxiety when he left his house but he would do all he could when he had to go back to work. He then out of the blue contacted me one evening through text messages, as we always communicated, and told me that he couldn’t do this anymore someone had come back into his life and he had to give that person another chance. I of course was hurt a bit to lose a friend and confused but I wanted him to be happy. I told him that day that I would be around if he needed someone to talk to and left it at that.
About two weeks later I received a message from him saying Hello and that he hoped that we could still be friends. I told him we never stopped and how could I help. We picked up right where we had left off and he started talking a bit about a couple women he had been talking to. One was a woman that he had lived with and he was a little obsessed with the idea that he was sent here to take care of her. She was from his past and he couldn’t let go because she had been in a bad relationship.
After we started chatting again his tone really changed, he was very hi and low and I just talked to him as always. I did what could to be that voice of reason when he would get worked up about this woman and tell me that she saved him that week he stopped talking to me. He had had thoughts of suicide at that time and asked for help and all of a sudden she contacted him and wanted to see him out of the blue. He said this to him was a sign. I tried to explain to him that yes it was a sign that he was to live and be here for his boys but he was very focused on this woman. I tried to be supportive and I was as best as I knew how. I never enabled him but I would tell it like it was. I think there were many nights where I really got through to him.
In the middle of February he asked me for a favor. I had no idea that he needed to go back in for a procedure for his heart that he had no one that he could ask to take him. I was honored of course but thought it was a bit strange that he would ask a person he had only actually met once to take him and be there with him for something like this but I couldn’t let him go alone so I said of course. We met again after that for coffee again and then caught a movie and we had a very nice day talking. We discussed at that time that we needed to follow through with this road trip idea. So we made plans.
One Saturday morning in late February I drove to his place and picked him up and we took a drive to the Coast. It was perfect weather out that day. We drove to Half Moon Bay and found a place on the beach to have lunch. This is when he really opened up to me about the situation with how sad he was to not see his children and how this woman was really tied to him. He would defend behavior she had that I thought was selfish and that she was not thinking of his needs at all. For some reason I was able to talk to him directly and he would listen even though he just could not let go. I started to realize this day that this man was definitely battling with depression.
After lunch we got my camera out of the car and we started down towards the beach. It was a great day and I actually saw him smile many times just like he felt relieved to be out there. We sat at one point and I took pictures and he just sat. There were moments that I could tell that bad thoughts would go through his head but then all of a sudden he would look over and smile and say “Thank you for bringing me.”
When we got back to the car I asked where he would like to go now and he asked that we take the long way home and we drove back to the town where he grew up and he showed me places he remembered as a teen and young adult. Then started talking about his days as a medic and how much he enjoyed that feeling of saving people. As we started to leave town and entered the freeway he got quiet. I gave him a few moments and then I asked him if there was something he needed to talk about. He just looked at me again and said, “Thank you. I didn’t think I could do this trip without having a panic attack.” It was at the time I realized there was much more going on than I had any knowledge of. We drove back to his place listening to old classic rock on the radio and just enjoying the wind blowing through the car.
We got to his place and he got out of the car and gave me a hug and said he was happy we did this and was happy to have me as a friend. I just smiled and told him that I was proud to be his friend and that I would text him as soon as I got home. Which I did and we of course watched an episode of “Burn Notice” and chatted about our day. He talked about the amazing Lobster Roll he had for lunch and that he wanted one again. I just laughed and said well then I guess we will need to do it again.
Time went on and we had many talks up to the day of his procedure at the end of March. I went and picked him up and drove him to the Hospital. I was still shocked that if this woman he kept telling me about was so amazing and that they loved each other why was I there and not her? Just kept telling me he didn’t want to worry anyone and didn’t want them to know. It never made sense to me but of course I just went. I went in to the room with him and it was like I was there with a family member and the doctor and nurses were asking questions and telling me how he needed to be taken care of once we left the hospital. Once the procedure was over we had to wait in the room for a while. I asked the nurse about some of the things that were happening to him recently and she said that it was very possible that they were side effects of the original procedure. The doctor came in and talked to us about the findings and they saw a small mass but they were hoping that it was not something they needed to be concerned with that it would just eventually pass. We had concern and discussed all this on the way to his place. He knew he had to take his medications but he was struggling and having trouble with work. I stayed with him for a few hours after to make sure he was ok and then I left him.
After his procedure, things started to get difficult, the depression got worse, he lost his job and had to get on unemployment, and he was struggling. I did what I could to give him the emotional support and we would get in arguments over texts because he was giving this woman money instead of paying for his own medicine or paying his own bills. Our conversations slowly started to cut-down to every other day and then a couple times a week and in early June I was rarely hearing from him. Then in mid June the messages stopped all together. I kept messaging but nothing. I just figured, well hoped, that he had found someone and was just too busy or that this new person in his life didn’t understand our friendship.
Then came July 9, 2013, the day I will remember forever. I messaged again, asking if he was ok. I waited and all of a sudden a message from his phone came. It was from the mother of his sons. “I have news. If you are comfortable calling me, you are welcome to do so.” Of course I called right away and was told the news that this friend had taken his own life on June 17, 2013. I somehow knew, but it hurt so much that I wasn’t there to help. His son’s mother proceeded to tell me that he had sent a letter to his Mother and in this letter he had talked about me and how he felt about our friendship and that I had been there for him and ask that she please get in touch with me and let me know somehow. She apologized for taking so long to get back with me but I completely understood. I thanked her and offered to help in any way I could and asked that she give his sons a message from me. “Please tell them their father loved them with all he had. The happiest times I saw in him were when he had them with him and when he would talk about them. Tell them that their father was very proud of them and wanted to be with them.” She thanked me for that and asked that we keep in touch. I hung up the phone and wept for a very long time.
It took me several months to forgive myself for allowing the conversations to taper off. I had to come to terms with the fact that this moment was going to happen. I just had the honor to share the days I did with this man. He taught me a lot about myself and life. I thank him for that and for opening my eyes to learning that you don’t have to physically connect with someone to be their friend. Communication is all some of us need and if you can be those words at the other end of the keyboard for someone and that is all they require from you…then is it really that difficult? Enjoy every moment you have with those around you whether it be a real friendship or a virtual one, it really doesn’t matter. The person on the receiving end is still a human being. Friends forever my dear friend, I will never forget you.