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Passing - agent double oh trouble
the collective consciousness of lost keystrokes
Many years ago, I was twenty years old and preparing to cross into Iraq to attack the defensive positions of their ground troops. My blood type was written in big letters over my heart on my flack jacket, as well as on one side of my helmet. On the other side of my helmet was a roster number so that they could quickly order a replacement for my position (Infantryman, one each. Use and replace as needed.). We were told in short order: "Focus on your objectives, remember your training, expect casualties."

At the same moment, on the other side of the world, my friends and former classmates were all in college. Going to class, getting drunk, getting laid, seeing bands, dancing in clubs, having fun, sleeping late, skipping class, protesting whatever was cool to protest that month...

I knew their world well since that's what I had left behind roughly a year before. I also knew that they likely neither thought about, understood, nor cared about mine. Mine had become too alien and different. It was neither fun nor cool. And even if they did think about it, it was all too easy to compartmentalize and distance as "someone else's problem".

And they were completely correct. I understood their world, and I knew that it kept moving without me. They were worried about where to go for spring break, I was concerned about keeping all of my limbs. Priorities. They had their families and each other, I had myself and an infantry platoon I had just joined a couple weeks before flying off to the desert.

But part of life is also finding a degree of grace and dignity, no matter what is thrown at us.


Because of this little piece of my history, I've been thinking a lot about my friends down in New Orleans. My life in my city goes on in the happy little way that I've spent many years building. And their lives have almost completely turned upside down in just a little over a month.

It could have been unfortunately easy to shrug off their situation, to focus on my world around me, and to distance theirs as "someone else's problem". But they're my friends, so I chose not to.

It's not that hard to give a little bit of time and compassion, to be attentive and responsive, to give some thought and consideration. But I've seen far too many people who can't be troubled. That's life, but I also believe our actions define us.


Yesterday afternoon, my friend finally died. In May he was fine, in June he was ill, and within the last 24 hours he's now gone. Only a year and a half ago I was at the wedding where he married one of my loyal friends from the past fifteen years.

We may all have our flaws, but I'll always remember him as someone who sincerely meant well and truly loved his wife. And I do have one anecdotal story to offer:

Over the previous weekend, as his friends and family gathered for his final weekend at home, I kept getting concerned texts about how he was trying to act as if nothing was wrong, as if he'd somehow recover, as if he didn't grasp the seriousness of his situation. Yet I also knew that he was bummed about missing the final Batman movie.

I pointed out that if he knew that he would miss a movie release that was less than ten days away, he was fully aware. I also explained that he was also a dude. We're raised to fix things, and to pick ourselves up from bad falls and walk stuff off as if we aren't actually in pain. He knew what was happening, but he wanted to hold it together and make the best of it, instead of seeing everyone else hurt and upset. He was being strong for them, as well as himself.

Through to the end, he chose to care, and to keep his dignity. And that's really as much as any of us could hope for.
22 comments or Leave a comment
rm From: rm Date: July 7th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just wanted to say I've really been enjoying (it's hardly the right word) your posts of late. I feel schooled by them, but not in a bad way, just in a "wow, why isn't everyone getting this smack upside the head right now?" way.

And I'm sorry about your friend. I think those situations in which people know they are going to die are the ones that are both the easiest to have grace in and the ones that are absolutely hardest to deal with.
lulu_girl From: lulu_girl Date: July 7th, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you. His posts really are eye opening, not to mention absurdly well written.
schoenberg From: schoenberg Date: July 8th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
beauty AND brains!
moonraye From: moonraye Date: July 7th, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
trista From: trista Date: July 7th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so sorry.
lulu_girl From: lulu_girl Date: July 7th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
hugs for you and yours.
stagger_lee77 From: stagger_lee77 Date: July 7th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
amen to your post.

From: blackie_deuce Date: July 7th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
so sorry...and hugs.

carpe diem.
twirlingtulip From: twirlingtulip Date: July 7th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am sorry about your friend.

part of life is also finding a degree of grace and dignity, no matter what is thrown at us.

Yes that is true.

Here is to being as kind as we can be to all...
tsarina From: tsarina Date: July 7th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with rm, as your posts are so pointed and poignant. It is a good thing to be reminded of the other windows on life, the things I might not stop to think about otherwise.

I didn't know you friend, but I have to admit I cried reading about how he decided to be at the end. I hope I can be like that.
schoenberg From: schoenberg Date: July 8th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
you have my condolences my dear. i hope his family and wife are holding up ok.
emmylee From: emmylee Date: July 8th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I've just been torn in half by her posts as well and this post really summed it up for me. Thanks for putting words where the thought of her pain had kind of left a hole.
sainteelyse From: sainteelyse Date: July 8th, 2008 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)
thank you chrissopher. i've been reading your posts to mama and we sat here tonight as i read this one to her and we both cried. i shouldn't be surprised to realize that you "got it". and for what it is worth, he liked you a lot. he said he understood how i looked at some things after he met you. we both appreciate more than you could know the time you took to visit us and spend time with us.
you are now as you always have been my hero boy.
placeyouare From: placeyouare Date: July 8th, 2008 08:13 am (UTC) (Link)
walk it off. :) Go with the lights. I love you.
piedpiper311 From: piedpiper311 Date: July 8th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so sorry for your loss.
From: rain__swept Date: July 8th, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry to hear that he went so suddenly. At least you did your best in being part of his life before he passed.
_ladylazarus_ From: _ladylazarus_ Date: July 8th, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
i can't say anything different than anyone else, or before: i'm sorry.

carpe diem.
From: 1015satnight Date: July 9th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)

i hope you have someone(s) around this week - and forever - that not only understand your world but are a huge physical part of it right now. whatever that means to you. your posts have been beautiful and, i hope, therapeutic but i worry that you are putting so much energy, rightfully so, into being there for others and sometimes, in times like this, we forget about ourselves. don't do that. make sure you are taking care of yourself, too.
beelzebabe From: beelzebabe Date: July 9th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
You write beautifully and I'm really happy to see you writing more often here. I actually look forward to your posts.

I'm really sorry about your friend.
theladyskye From: theladyskye Date: July 14th, 2008 02:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I honestly can't even begin to wrap my head around it. My mind just refuses to understand how someone so young could suddenly become so sick. Such a devastating loss. My heart breaks for both of them :(
alafairnadia From: alafairnadia Date: July 23rd, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have not been paying attention to LJ because of my own shit. but this post made me cry. thank you. and I'm very sorry for your loss, your friend's loss, and what you went through.

I have a cousin who was in iraq (first time around) and he did not return mentally intact - he collects assault rifles and is basically off-the-wall insane. I'm amazed you still function at as a high a level you do after such an experience.

and yes, the experience of losing our friends, our homes -- the things that define us -- can be very poignant and bring out a lot of parallel thought.

so. thanks for making me think for a bit.

take care.
sainteelyse From: sainteelyse Date: July 22nd, 2009 07:15 am (UTC) (Link)

so a year later and this still makes me cry. many things do, but far fewer than earlier this month i think. or i'd like to think.

come to visit soon. i promise i'm not completely broken.:) and have even better hair than before.
22 comments or Leave a comment