Passing the Torch

“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.”
– Henry David Thoreau

A week ago my friend ended his own life.

It may sound kind of strange or cold but the last week has been the easiest part of the grieving process for me. Given my 30ish years of life and my time in the military I have become uncommonly familiar with unexpected deaths. That is the great cosmic joke, the more we love and more friendships we have, the more we will lose and greater pain we will feel. When it comes to death though, I know my role, I become the rock that fate seems to want me to be. I’m the one that is available for calls and texts, I’m the one whose shoulder stands ready to be stained by the tears of my friends. As time passes people start to heal and come to terms with the tragedy, they need me less so it becomes my time to mourn. So I mourn in the only way I know how, I spill my tears and blood onto the page.

My friend, KJ, was more than a friend to me. We were pretty close early on because we had a very kindred spirit. In him I saw what I could have been, both the good and the bad. If I had the bravery he did I would have started my own business. If I had the compassion he did I would have dedicated myself to helping others as he did. We both shared a sort of wandering nature, a lack of firm direction that can cause the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We also both suffered from depression. If I hadn’t had a stranger contact me at Tumblr I would have ended my life that night in Washington DC when I lay in bed with my gun in my hand. If my best friend wouldn’t have introduced me to MDMA and Burning Man I may have ended my life sometime later.

Is there more I could have done for KJ? If the world was slightly better at dealing with mental illness or allowing life-changing medications into the market would he still be alive? I don’t know, and none of us ever will. All I know is I did the best I could for someone I loved, that is all any of us can do.

I can’t find a way to be angry at KJ for how his life ended. I know anger is a response for many, it is a way to cope, but it is not my way, at least not in this situation. Part of it is my congenital stoicism and part of it is how I see a reflection of myself in him and his life. If it is depression that caused this then anger towards the disease is warranted, but not towards him. If KJ wasn’t depressed when his life ended, but took his life of his own free will who am I to judge or be angry? His life was his own to do with as he wished. Some may call it selfish but to take ones own life is less selfish than to demand someone to live (and maybe suffer) for my own benefit or happiness.

What I can, and should, do is move forward in a way that KJ would have wanted. He wouldn’t want his life defined by how it ended, which is really nothing more than a small fact or footnote to an amazing person. His life is not defined by his last breath. The spark that he ignited, the friendships he created, the love that he shared, and the way he inspired me (and I am sure many others) shall be his legacy. One of the pairs of Robin Socks I have will move from my sock drawer to the little alter I keep for my friends. The other pair will go to Burning Man to mix with ash and playa dust as the Temple Falls.

The body of someone I loved is empty, but his spirit lives on in some form. I will gladly take part of his torch now into the future, his spark will live in me for a while before fate and circumstance stills my heart as well. And then my spark will be carried by others, but I won’t be alone because I will have KJ, Kaluza, Brad, my grandmother, Fifer, and all the others that have passed with me. KJ is immortal, he lives on. To steal some lyrics from Kottonmouth Kings, I hope people see me the following way… for that is surely how I will always seek KJ.

I hope one day people will say I was a good guy and every time they were around me I made them smile
And so I hope one day soon we will make a change and when I’m dead I hope my life wasn’t lived in vain.
I know in my heart that I tried to live right and I will fight to the death until freedom is legalized.

You made us all smile brother. You were more than a good guy, you were the best. Your life fighting for freedom wasn’t in vain, we will carry your spark and turn it into a roaring fire. We will live as you would have wanted. I love you, and I will miss you. Thank you for all you did.

Keep a stool reserved for me and order me a glass of scotch. I got some work to do but I’ll be there when the time is right.

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