The Widdershins

Lazy Weekend: A Life Cut Short

Posted on: August 14, 2021

Widdershins, today I’m going to take a break from politics and share something I’ve been struggling with personally.

Last May, I got a call from a dear friend’s wife. I missed it because I was in a client meeting and figured hey, I can call her back. I did have a brief flash of “that’s odd that she’d call me on a Monday morning, I hope my friend is okay” but then dismissed that thought because he was 54 and in good health.

When I called her back, she said he had passed away the day before. We both started bawling uncontrollably. Apparently the family (my friend, his wife and their two kids, who are 16 and 13) were picnicking in the park near their how. My friend was laughing one minute, then suddenly grimaced, clutched his heart and fell over. He was just gone. They tried CPR and heart massage, but there was nothing they could do, and the EMTs pronounced him when they arrived.

A bit of history about my friend (let’s call him BC). I met him, along with many of my closest friends, in college, my freshman year. BC was in the companion dorm to mine, right across a big common area called the Lounge. So many parties, late night chats, trips. We were all thick as thieves. BC and I kept in touch pretty well – his brother was in NYC, so he stayed with me and my roommates once when I was in grad school. We spoke on the phone. I even visited him and his then-girlfriend (who became his wife) in Hawaii when I happened to be there.

But once BC moved to Southern California, we started losing touch. My family was almost all on the East Coast, and my brother was in NorCal. He and his wife were becoming parents and building a life out West. I was building my career and life with my husband. And every time we talked, it was always at least an hour and a half, so we had to plan it out pretty carefully as we got busier and busier.

Flash forward to the pandemic.

The first week after we went remote at work (week of March 16, 2020), I coordinated a Zoom call with my college friends. At first, for me it was a check-in call to make sure everyone was safe. I couldn’t stand the thought of not knowing how everyone was, and I could see that with Drumpf in charge we were going to have a terrible time of it. After we talked for a while, I suggested the call be every week. At first people thought that was excessive, but I convinced them to try it and if we wanted to adjust, we could adjust. It turned out to be our bastion of sanity and connection during those very dark days, and we’ve continued it to this day.

I mentioned BC a few times, and then eventually decided I would try to reach out. I found his email on LinkedIn and he responded right away. I told him about the call and invited him, and soon afterwards he started showing up regularly, with his wonderful wife and kids dropping in to say hi frequently. It was just as though we had never lost touch.

I’m so thankful for the timing of that outreach, because we all had several months of being with him before that dreadful May day. My husband said BC was the funniest guy he ever met. It was the way he thought about things – so logical to him, but mystifying to everyone else. The classic example: he decided to go to Hawaii because he was a waiter in Rochester, NY – why not be a waiter somewhere warm? No worries at all about logistics or career – he focused on what would make him physically and emotionally content. His boundless curiosity and desire to understand life from every angle made ambition beside the point.

The last conversation we had was with a couple of my other friends and BC. We spent 45 minutes helping him talk through a decision he wanted to make about his daughter’s education – he was trying to figure out what to tell her about whether to take a class she didn’t want to take. In the end I gave him the advice he took – tell her the risks of not taking the class (she might not get into the college she wanted) and let her decide. She would ultimately bear the consequences of the decision, so it was best to give her the grace to make it for herself.

Five days later, he was dead. And so began the agony of figuring out who was going to call whom to break the horrible news, including the Googling of another friend we had lost touch with and talking to him for 45 minutes about BC, and making plans about how to honor him at his Celebration of Life (coming up next weekend). The whole terrible, awful, unfair mess of it all. A middle-aged man in the prime of his life, cut down in the midst of joy. The pain of it is brutal and sly, the tears catching me unawares before a meeting or in quiet moments at the end of the day.

What I want to say about this is, if there’s someone you love whom you haven’t seen or spoken with in a long time, don’t wait to reach out. Life is short, random and unforgiving. Keep your dear ones close. You’ll never regret it.

This is an open thread.

37 Responses to "Lazy Weekend: A Life Cut Short"

Well said, Beata. (And mb!)

I’m so sorry about your friend, MB.

Thanks PJ! And Q and Beata.

I am feeling every bit of this tweet as well. I couldn’t deal with trying to express it this morning

((MB)) thank you for sharing the story of your friend’s life with us, and I am so sorry for your loss.
He will always have a place in your heart.

Thanks, Shadow!

I’m reading a book entitled “Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World”. It’s not a decorating book although it does examine what makes a home cozy. But the book goes beyond that to try to define coziness and then ask how do we find it or create it in our lives? It is a highly individual concept. What is cozy for one person may not be for another. Usually it involves what is familiar, not the exotic or the new. Books (Jane Austen for me), food (childhood favorites?), clothing, styles of furniture (I grew up with antiques and modern furniture is not for me), the weather (rainy days, a gentle snow at Thanksgiving and New Years), music (often the music you loved as a young person), people (the ones you have known for years or feel immediately understand you when you first meet them), animals (my cat), places (are you a beach or mountain person?). So many other things can be cozy. I think it comes down to asking “what is comforting to me?”. Times are hard now. What makes the world feel soft to you? Look for those things. Find comfort. I am keeping a notebook of what feels cozy to me and trying to add more of those things into my daily life.

Right now, I am sitting in my living room on a rocking chair that belonged to my great-great grandmother. My cat is lying on the floor close to me, stretched out on her back, softly snoring and showing her pretty peach tummy. One of my mother’s oil paintings is hanging on the wall in front of me. She painted it when I was a baby. It is cloudy outside and looks like it might rain later. My world is very quiet except for a distant train sound. All is cozy here.

Beata, that was lovely. Thanks for sharing.

I agree about the people especially. That’s why when I retire, I want to create a community with my dearest friends. It will feel very cozy to me to be surrounded by the ones I love and who love me.

On another topic, the DC press is desperate to say negative things about Biden and Afghanistan. They’re very out of touch. This war was hugely unpopular and people aren’t going to blame Biden for his predecessors’ mistakes.

The WaPo is telling it like it is: no one really thought the Afghan army was going to be able to defend itself against the Taliban.

MB, on another blog, we used to talk about finding a big old house somewhere in New England and starting a commune. We are all 10+ years older now and the commune will never happen but it was a nice idea.

So sorry MB! He sounded like a lovely guy. And ugh.

@8 Beata, sounds heavenly!

BTW, today is Madonna’s birthday!!

Happy birthday to Madge! Forever iconic. And thanks for the lovely song D!

Afghanistan. I can never forgive or forget the “pet rocks” comment.

(You know the one. Now an anonymous senior U.S. official says: “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.” He was talking about women’s rights. In 2011.)

I just wrote a post about it, one of my usual podium-thumping posts because I’m so sad and angry.

In a country that throws out half its citizens without a thought, it was always clear what the first step had to be.

Imagine if they’d spent 20 years helping and building up women. Now, instead of testosterone-poisoned defectives, women would be everywhere in the economy and government, and they’d have enough standing in families to have a say. It would be a whole different world. It’s the only thing that would be a whole different world.

Instead they came in and saw pet rocks.

I visited there three times, on enough of a budget to be living among Afghanis each time. Some of them are among the bravest and kindest people on earth. It’s all just awful.

None of which is to say Biden could have done anything else. He was courageous to finally stop the US insanity there. (Doing the same thing that fails over and over.) He’s savvy enough to know what the media are going to make of it and he did it anyway. Respect.

Agree, Quixote.

Here’s a really good thread on Afghanistan.

(theses, Damon. Theses. Honestly.)

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Good link, as you say. Although anyone who didn’t know that most (all?) of the generals were lying wasn’t paying even a bit of attention. Or, possibly, USians really have zero clue to Afghani minds? Seems unlikely, since we’re all humans.

MB, so very sorry about your friend. You write beautifully about him and your friends. It’s so sad for his family.

D, that’s a good choice, beautiful song.

@19 – I think there was a very American perception of what needed to be done, and what could be done, which did not take into consideration the Afghan culture. Yes, we are all humans, but our beliefs and thought processes are molded by our experiences.

When we take an exceptionalist (oh, let’s just say it – racist) view of Afghan culture and decide that what they REALLY want is to build a giant centralized armed force to oust the Taliban, then we will fail horribly.

I don’t know how we could have succeeded in changing their culture without, as you say, building up the women. But given the open and extreme misogyny that informs the Taliban and Afghani culture, I’m not sure how successful that would have been.

The fact is, the Taliban take control because the Afghans want them to. It’s happened over and over again. Although this time, Drumpf facilitated it by letting the Taliban leader out of prison and releasing 5000 prisoners who were in his army. That leader is now in charge of Afghanistan.

@20 – thanks, Annie!

“the Taliban take control because the Afghans want them to”

Yes and no, mb. Besides misogyny, the other massive failing of Afghan traditions is corruption. In 1996, a lot of people pretty much turned to the Taliban because the level of corruption under the various warlords made ordinary life just about impossible.

Do you remember the mood in Afghanistan when the US first rolled in? That sort of collective, watchful intake of breath, the barely daring to hope that the nightmare might be over? (The Taliban *was* a nightmare for Afghans. They didn’t want them at all once they’d toned down the corruption.)

The US had about two, three weeks to prove themselves. If they’d come in with Hillary Clinton-levels of preparedness and understanding, they could have achieved what looks impossible. Unlike Alexander the Great and all the other invaders, the US could have come in with an understanding of justice and actually applied it. The Afghanis are desperate for it. But after an entire history of might making right, no, they can’t do that alone. That’s different from wanting the Taliban.

I’m not saying that running around applying justice was ever a remote possibility with Shrub in power. I’m just saying it’s not like faster than light travel. Doing that is *theoretically* possible.

And I think it’s worth thinking in those terms because if we (humanity) keep that possibility in sight, maybe some day it’ll happen.

MB @21

Sadly for women and girls in Afghanistan, I agree.

Bush should have just gone after Bin Laden for 9-11 instead of just starting a massive war in the middle East. He wanted to make the middle east like Texas and steal their resources.

Middle Eastern men won’t learn to respect their women, especially though a war with the US. The men have treated women like their cattle for many generations.

We can’t even change our own misogynists’ here.

Speaking of misogyny…the media is trying to Hillary Joe Biden with ridiculous headlines about how he is struggling to maintain credibility for Afghanistan. That sh*t only works on women. Old white men are immune.

This tweet:

Mike Jason
Update. It’s been a stressful day, but big gains process-wise. We are seeing snapshots in time, but it’s improving. Got some Afghan female soldiers out and now up to processing 500-800/hour, 24/7 so 12k/day. Taliban crowd control… well, people are scared but system is working.

I’m fairly sure that the mere presence of women keeping order hasn’t changed the whole situation. But he does make it sound like it. And I could just see it….

Okay, I lost another post.

Did everyone see the booster info that came out today?

Data results of effectiveness against Covid infection after 7 months:

Moderna, Jan 2021 86% to July 2021, 76%

Pfizer, Jan 2021 76% to July 2021, 42%

Not enough data for J&J yet.

I was going to get a Pfizer booster, but with these results, I think I will stick with Moderna and just brace to have some symptoms for awhile.

Wow, Shadow – that is scary about Pfizer! It’s so weird that the two vaccines are so different in their effectiveness.

Yes MB, I was very surprised that there was such a difference in the efficacy, especially since the Delta variant is factored in.

As much as it is scary to hear, it’s better for all of us to know how venerable we are. Most of us thought we were protected to either 95% or 94% for the mRNA vaccines.

This is probably why there are so many ‘break-through’ cases now.

I can only hope that DeSantis goes the way of Brownback of Kansas. Brownback was a Ronnie Raygun copycat. Sticking the knife in women and poor people and brown people especially, but always with a warm, happy sunny smile. A Ronnie doofus smile (right wingers seem to love that – Trump has that smile down too). That gross fake smile. Good ole Sam Brownie was super religious too (in the way all super religious people are – wicked and full of shit – Falwell, Robertson, Schlafly, etc). He used Kansas as a petri dish for right winger ideology. It was a “red state experiment.” He thought it would propel him to the presidency. Um… it failed. Like miserably. Even Kansans could see it and that’s saying something!

So back to DeSantis. Playing the copycat playbook. He wants to see how this *Trumpian* red state anti-science experiment works in FL. He thinks it will propel him to the presidency. It worked like shit on a national scale with Trump himself, but who knows? I think Ronnie Duh-Satan-(is) and his pubes have figured it out – it doesn’t matter if it works – if you cheat well enough, you “win”. Even old white guys like Biden will not be safe.

Yikes! Sorry to be so depressing… Honestly, I’ve been trying not to post with the thoughts going through my head… I don’t like the thought of bringing anyone down. I do better when I stay focused on work but it like builds up and then spewage… But most times it’s good for me – at least when I’m at work and distracted.

@MB, That’s so sad about your friend. It’s 20 years and a few months since I lost my best friend in an accident and I still miss him grieviously. Got back recently from a long multi-day alpine traverse in an area where a couple of us had first been in with our friend 25 years ago. Beautiful country, although most days it was too hot, the mosquitoes were often abundant, and 3 days were very smoky from wildfire smoke. Otherwise … mountains, glaciers, flowers, the taste of snowmelt water running over granite, tarns to swim in … Saw a few of the Perseid meteors.

@8, Beata, what a comforting and cozy description! Ahhh! Give your kitty a few gentle belly pets for me.

@quixote, re: Afghanistan. Yes.

If they’d come in with Hillary Clinton-levels of preparedness and understanding, they could have achieved what looks impossible.

Coming back into the mundane world and seeing what’s happening to Afghani girls and women is horrible. Plus those comments on posts about rescuing girls and women: “but what about the men? The men should go first so they can establish themselves and then send for their wives and families.” (angry face)

Vax — I’ve seen good numbers for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for up to 10 months or so out. Plus the breakthru cases are usually mild and asymptomatic or can be treated at home. It’s the unvaccinated cases that need hospitalization.

However, a big problem is that the CDC quit tracking “breakthru” cases unless they result in hospitalization or death, so we don’t have national statistics. We only have states that states collect, and depending on the state those may not be very accurate.


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