Just to be clear — I am not talking about my wife. I am talking about my best male friend. His name was Jerry.
Jerry and I have had a bromance for thirty-five years and we did a lot of activities together. We talked four or five times a week, supported each other in our businesses and helped each other when life got crazy (e.g., breakups, death of his child, relationship shit).
This man was in my life and I in his. There was no way it could not affect our long-term intimate relationships. Our spouses say it has been for the better for all concerned. I would agree.
Just to paint a picture of this man, imagine if you will, a guy who has a photo in his living room of him standing naked on a mountain precipice holding a naked woman in his arms with Mount Everest in the background. This was a man who lived life large and no adventure was too extreme.
Jerry managed to create a business that required three months of work a year and gave him enough income to travel for the rest of the time, much of it was spent in India, his spiritual home.
And stories, my God did he have stories to tell. He had been to Plato’s Retreat in its heyday, gave workshops around the world, hiked the Himalayas, hung out with gurus, participated as an athlete in the Master’s Olympics, was big on the environment, had a child in his mid-fifties, and had a smile that could light up a city.
Jerry was a fun guy to hang out with. He was always looking to meet people and engage in deep ways – or just have a party and play games.
But let me back up a bit when, just over two years ago, Jerry was first diagnosed with cancer. It has been nine months since he died, two years after his diagnosis. The doctors felt he had a good chance of surviving anywhere from four to five years with aggressive treatment — intense chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant.
Jerry decided on a less aggressive chemo treatment program with no bone marrow transplant. Thus began his slow decline.
At first we didn’t know what was going on. We used to hike up (race up) a local mountain called the Grouse Grind. Jerry is six years older than me but was always first to the top. He was a mountain goat. He would set a pace and keep it from bottom to top and would sprint the last 100 yards.
Then one day I beat him to the top. That was weird. He was sucking wind badly and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. This happened again and again.
He went to the doctor but they couldn’t find anything wrong. Jerry was still strong but not like before. Eventually, one persistent doctor thought to give him a blood test specifically looking for cancer. And there it was, multiple myeloma.
This was a shock to a guy that had grown up as a farm boy on the prairies and prided himself on his level of fitness and physical prowess. Indeed, the diagnosis did not stop his love of the outdoors or the activities he engaged in.
In the year of his death he had formed a group of us to bicycle ride (race) around Stanley Park on a weekly basis. He still hiked the mountains and just months before his death, won a mini golf tournament we had on a guys vacation — I still have the scorecard.
But now, everything has changed. Funny how the death of your best friend will do that. The changes however, are not obvious. They are subtle and best reflected in my dreams. Dreams. I have had seven dreams of my friend since he died. It has been a process for sure.
I shed a few tears at the funeral where I was one of the speakers. Then again, a few in private. But no big outpouring of emotion. I had witnessed his slow demise and was not surprised when he passed. Fortunately we were able to have a living eulogy before he passed and said what I needed to say. I was OK with his death, or so I thought.
Then the dreams started. I have received them every 6 weeks on average. I say received because they are gifts to me. My subconscious is working it out and then I consciously get to think about it.
The first dream I was incredibly angry at Jerry. I threw him on the ground and shouted, “You’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead.” In another, he was onstage (a familiar place for him) with a huge smile beaming with life, and the message I got was to live life to the fullest.
In another, the last, I was confused because he looked healthy, and as I approached him, I ran my hands over his body, he seemed OK but I knew he was dying. I didn’t want to tell him and he looked at me with questioning/worried eyes. Tears were streaming down my face and I said to him,”When the sun rises, all your worries will be gone.”
When I woke up from the last dream, I realized how much Jerry meant to me.
No more would I have someone to call on a whim to discuss whatever was on my mind.
No more would I have a ski buddy who would accompany me in the early hours of the morning and watch the sun rise over the mountains as we drove with anticipation and excitement to Whistler or one of the local mountains.
No more would we laugh together about some crazy life experience.
No more would we whoop and holler after a race up the mountain or after surviving a treacherous run down the mountain.
No more would we watch in silence and appreciation the setting sun after a day’s adventure.
No more would we soak our aching muscles in a hot tub.
No more would we dance like crazy guys and be the life of the party.
The party is over. But what a run. And now what?
I am at home more than before. Work has increased and that has kept me busy. I had an operation shortly after Jerry’s death and the recovery took a few months. Only now in the early summer am I getting back to my sports and physical activities. It’s not the same of course.
I did ski after he died. Oh, he died on September 11. Really. He always had a flare for the dramatic. It will be impossible to forget the day of his death. Skiing was a bit boring without Jerry. I have had moments when I felt like phoning him only to realize he is no longer with us. Those moments are fewer now.
As for my wife, death has made me appreciate her all the more. We are here for such a short time and I treasure every minute that we have together.
Life goes on. I dream, and awaken to a new reality.
By Steven Lake