I’ve had a sad heart lately. Last weekend a coworker and friend passed away unexpectedly (she was only 46). The same day I got the news, I found out another friend was moved to hospice care and even though I knew his time was coming soon, it was still on the forefront of my mind every day.
Our friend Chad was diagnosed with cancer at 46 earlier this spring. We’d just seen him and his lovely wife for dinner and board games at our place, then there were some cryptic posts on facebook about doctors and…then Michael got the phone call from Dawni. It was cancer. Stage 4. It was a huge shock. He was so young and vibrant and healthy.
A few years ago Chad had gotten serious about his health and was working out a lot and looked fabulous. Him and I would talk about fitness a lot and I was proud of his progress. This news was such a shock I don’t think either Michael nor I really comprehended what it meant.
He did some treatment. Surgery wasn’t an option but it seemed like the treatment was helping. It was slowing down the growth of the cancer and the updates in the facebook group seemed hopeful and positive.
In April they threw a celebration of life party. It was so wonderful! Tons of Chad’s friends and coworkers were there for a buffet lunch at a space they rented at McMenamin’s and people got up and shared hilarious and touching stories of Chad. I know it was hard for him, but Michael got up there and shared some stories, too. It was a positive, upbeat experience, not a sad one. Still, the updates following this event seemed positive and I was hopeful that he’d have more time than the doctors predicted.
Summer came and they were going to throw a birthday BBQ for Chad but unfortunately it was cancelled at the last minute when he had to go back into the hospital. Even though we were all prepared for the inevitable ending, when it was clear it was getting close I was still in denial I think. I kept hoping and thinking that he’d get better and have a little more time. That’s what I kept thinking and wishing–just give him and his wife a little more time. More time was always on my mind.
Here is an adorable picture of Chad and his wife in the photo booth at our wedding last year:
I know it’s been a hard road for them both. Selfishly I related to Dawni and her pain, thinking about how it would feel if it were me in her shoes. It broke my heart. I couldn’t imagine everything she was going through. And to potentially becoming a widow before she was 40.
In October we had the chance to see Chad for the last time. He was home from the hospital finally. We took dinner for Dawni and prepared ourselves to see Chad in a hospital bed at home. But he wasn’t! He was up and moving around and came downstairs and the four of us hung out talking and sharing stories. It was fun and positive and uplifting–not the sad visit we had been preparing for. I’m so thankful we were able to see Chad, in good spirits and on a good day, and tell him in person how much we care.
I know this was really hard for Michael. They’ve been good friends a long time and it was a shock for him. It’s hard not feel sad and helpless when something like this happens.
I’ve known Chad for about 7 years. In the beginning it was just at the Brewfest every year. He came out and met up with us, whatever group we were currently with, and we’d all spend the day drinking and talking and laughing. Chad was an awesome, fascinating human being that was intelligent and could have a conversation about anything. I loved talking to him about beer, books, movies, pretty much anything. He was so smart on so many topics! And had a dark, sarcastic sense of humor.
Then him and his wife joined my book club for a little while–I’m not sure they were into the same books that the group liked (they both liked sci-fi best) so I understood when they stopped coming. We read some pretty weird books as a group! But when they were part of the group I loved Chad’s insight into whatever novel we were reading. I think part of that was that he was a writer himself.
He published his book a few years ago and I remember feeling so proud of him! I was impressed he went out and did the hard work to publish it himself, instead of being discouraged by the publishing industry (like I was). He was courageous and put himself out there.
Here is my review from 2011:
“This was a good book! I’m not really a fantasy/sci-fi book reader but this was a good middle of the road type of book that would appeal to non-fantasy readers too. The story is interesting and fast paced. I read it in a day. The main character is likable and the ending set up the continuation for another book–maybe two more? I enjoyed the local flavor since I live in Portland. The details were accurate, the writing solid. I enjoyed the Joseph Campbell-esque journey of the hero that came to play in this book. That was really well done.”
I encourage all my readers to check out his book and give it a read. It was a really good book and I’m so glad he has this legacy!
Since we saw Chad in October I’ve been checking the facebook group frequently, and every morning I logged in I held my breathe just a little bit, expecting to get the news. It’s such an odd thing to be watching for news like this. This past week was hardest, when we all knew the time was coming very soon. He was moved to hospice care and the family gave frequent updates on the facebook group of Chad’s progress to the other side.
There were funny tidbits, stories of lucid moments, and the outpouring of love and memories of everyone in the group was sometimes overwhelming to read. But at the same time, wonderful. Chad had clearly touched many people in his short life. Then late Saturday night, the final update. I’m glad he was surrounded by his family and people who loved him, and could help him pass on in comfort and peace.
I’m really sad for everything that has happened; I’m sad for his wife; I’m sad for Michael losing a good friend. I wish I could find something more eloquent to say but…words aren’t coming to me for some reason. They aren’t having a funeral or memorial; his Life Party was it and I get it. He’s donating his body to science at OHSU, which is commendable. I guess this is my tribute to someone who was taken too soon.
All of my personal experiences with death have been sudden, unexpected death. Living with regret for not having that one last opportunity to say how you feel to that person. That kind of grief is hard to find closure for. I’m glad everyone got a chance to say their final words to Chad and tell him how much he meant to them, before he passed.
I wanted to share what Michael posted about Chad because it was so sweet and heartfelt and pretty much summed up a good man that the world lost too soon:
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sharing some of the things that Chad taught me in person with him. We were able to reflect on them together.
Chad was the first man that I can remember that really let me know that it was Ok to admit that you weren’t good at something – even if it was something relatively simple and mundane that we all take for granted. Chad told me that he didn’t like driving a car because he wasn’t good at it. I remember being dumfounded when I heard this because prior to this statement, I just thought there were two kinds of people in the world – those that can afford cars and those that cannot. Chad could afford a car but he chose not to drive whenever possible. To put it another way, his ego was strong enough to deal with whatever you thought of this decision that he made. As a result, I just tell people how I feel about things now and I’m not concerned about what the reaction is because I know I can handle it.
Chad also taught me that it was Ok to like comic books as an adult. Chad always liked comic books and I mean always – long before they were all turned into blockbuster films by Hollywood. And he wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed about it. Chad taught me that it was Ok to like whatever you like and you didn’t need to hide that from others. Years before it became a TV show, Chad turned me on to The Walking Dead books which I have stayed current on. I love the series and would recommend it to anyone.
And most importantly, Chad taught me that you could have fun at a job that you didn’t like. People and the relationships that you develop there are bigger than the job you’re doing. You can make friends with your manager and you can remain friends with them after you leave the job.
Chad may be gone but he is not forgotten.
I’m writing this post because I needed to say something. I feel like everyone should have met Chad because he was such a cool guy. Hug your loved ones, tell them you love them and appreciate them. Let the petty shit go and try to live in the moment. No one really knows when that time will end. And do me a favor, read Chad’s wonderful book. You won’t be disappointed.