On October 16, 2016, one of the people I cared about most in the world texted me. Only it was him, it was his wife. I had, until that text, held out hope that the reason the hospital had been a bit cagey with me was that they couldn't tell me that he'd broken his leg in the motorcycle accident, that HIPAA was preventing them from giving me the full scope of the situation.
Any hope of a positive ending was squashed by the text from James' phone, with his wife announcing herself, telling me that James had died. That had to be hard for her, exponentially harder for her than for me, harder for her still to this day.
Yet here I sit, blogging about it. I have James' picture in my office and routinely call him a son of a bitch for dying. No, for getting himself killed on his way to see me, on his way to let me help him get out of the situation he had gotten into, on his way to just have a beer or two and complain about the way corporate America is just a pyramid scheme that preys on the weak.
For that's what James gave me in life: we had shared experiences, and could complain about the same things.
This will be a tough anniversary for me. It's been a tough year, overall. My mom's death was not what I wanted to go through, but she was in her seventies and had lived an incredible life, the life of a fighter, kicking the ass of her illness until the very end. My grandfather, too. Every loss I'd gone through was someone elderly, someone about whom I could legitimately say that they had lived a good, long life.
James just ... died.
It is my way to analyze things, to find the lessons, to take apart the toaster and see what makes it tick. Here's what I've learned.
First: Companies don't know how to handle this situation. They have a bottom line to deal with. There are profits. Deadlines. Objectives. Boneses (not mine, but my managers). It's a complicated matrix, and I totally get that. But because of that, companies suck at dealing with an employee who has gone through a crisis.
Second: I don't know how to handle the situation. As a clinically depressed, codependent guy with strong alpha tendencies, this is not something I am capable of dealing with. Yet I have to. James didn't deal with it; I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that while his was not a suicide, it was the closest thing to it. He was on his motorcycle pushing things to the edge. I have found that I am doing the same thing, except I'm on my bicycle, driving forward with an intensity that I have never had before.
Third: Friends and family don't know how to handle the situation. They've tried, I suppose. But James and I shared no friends; not really. He was the crazy psycho in my life, the guy who was a right wing gun nut anarchist who reminded me of those roots in my own past. We'd jumped naked into hot springs in Japan not giving two fucks for how "against the rules" that was.
I head off on vacation soon. Somewhere out in the desert I hope to find an answer to this problem. I've taken this particular toaster apart. I've tried to explain the issue to bosses and friends. In the end, nobody cares and nobody wants to care. So it's up to me, now, to get a handle on this. Because I won't be James; I won't be the person whose cell phone is found on a lifeless body, I won't put my friends through getting that phone call from the hospital that had to get a court order to unlock the phone just to see who the last contacted person was.
At least I hope not.