Olympians are bundled up in Sochi, Russia today. They've spent 4 intense years since their last attempts at Gold, Silver and Bronze- training- striving, breaking barriers and smashing personal bests. Most people when working towards something...a goal, a new way at approaching life, a medal...they visualize success in order to drive themselves towards their intended destination. They determine a timeline, they set markers for achievement, they celebrate in the journey and just what they've learned along the way. These Olympians have been visualizing success and the podium, and many of them will conclude their time in Russia, where the world watched on...as champions.
This time of year, especially this particular February, stirs the embers of a life changing Saturday in February of 2010 for me. The Vancouver Winter Olympics had just started, and we as Canadians were more invested than ever. We were unabashedly proud. KD Lang sang Hallelujah, and the world fell silent to listen to the prairie girl with the wind swept angel voice.
An unforgiving wind changed my course that day- and has yet to stop. I don't remember much about my life perspective before that...I feel like I was so much more naive about life, about people, and about what I thought was fair. I feel like my understanding of humanity and frailty was juvenile, basic and short.The grief journey was about to take me on a winding trail of life's majestic heights, and perilous lows to which I had only ever been an inattentive bystander.
You see, I lost a kindred friend. You see, My dear friend died. You see, my friend was a drug addict.
His journey was like that of the Olympian. He determined in his mind that he wanted to achieve something- he determined what his goal was. He collected the necessary tools and supports to be a success....things like a support system for when he was low, new people who didn't know his past... a voracious coffee habit to offset the hunger, and a new life pretty damn unfamiliar to he, who had spent more than half his life in the grips of the demons hand. He stepped into the future with uncertainty and trepidacious hope ..because the path he had been on was like a spinning chamber in suicide roulette.
The training was hard. He was frustrated, he was exhilarated, he was painfully lonely, and he was the exact shadow of the man he used to be. It was all coming into focus- the rewards for his efforts, the attempts to be a better man, the esteem of peers and those people he saw as gamechangers in our world...
and one night the switch flipped...one night the pressure to keep trying was extinguished, one night it was all too much, and that night, he died.
I love my friend in the wake of 4 years. I love the complex, funny, irreverant and inappropriate ways he built his human experience. I love that there wasn't a single thing he wouldn't share about his journey and how he got to be where he was right in that moment- usually with a cigarette hanging out of his half-cocked grin and a large triple/triple coffee in his hand. I love what he taught me about compassion and second chances. I love that I knew him with faults branded onto his history, and in a perfect time and place when I needed to understand more about loving people for where they are right now, in both the beautiful and unforgivingly cruel moments in life.
Now, as I see the actor addict who dies alone, and as I love the addict in my everyday life...I remember my friends words, "you can't want it for them...". I don't like that answer, and I don't have to. But I accept that none of us will save another without their permission- famous, or otherwise. The choice remains to love more, pray more, and to accept more than ever that our lives are all bisecting for a million spoken and unspoken reasons. The ripple effects outlast life...and they step out of death everyday into the present with lessons and reminders.
My friend was a great man. He was flawed. He wasn't a quitter. He made a million mistakes like you and I do everyday. But firstly, and most importantly- He Was Loved.
Miss you much Michael. xo