Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Steve

(originally published on Friday, May 6, 2011)

 I lost a friend a year ago.
His name was Steve.  We were high school acquaintances.  Thanks to Facebook we became good buddies.  We chatted online or on the phone almost every day.  Have you ever had a new friend who you instantly connected with?  That was how it was with Steve.  I felt like I had gained another brother, and we joked about how we were twins separated at birth and we had just figured it out.  We liked so many of the same things and had a lot of the same beliefs and values.  We would think the same thing at the same time and began finishing each other's sentences.
About the beginning of May last year, I began to avoid Steve.  I am ashamed to admit it now, but I did.  I was busy with school and with my own life, and frankly, I was growing weary of Steve's daily dose of drama.  I kept urging him to cut the drama from his life, but it wasn't happening.  You know how it is when a friend makes the same mistake over and over, and you know he is headed for disaster, and you try to help, but it doesn't work?  That's what was going on.  And I was tired and needed a little time-out.
A few days before he died, I did get a chance to chat with him again.  He was giving me crap about how I hadn't been around, so I gave it right back to him.  I knew he had been having personal problems, so I made the comment "Oh, I'm just checking in with you to make sure no one has offed you yet."  He gave a half-hearted laugh.  This off-the-cuff comment would come back to haunt me.
Monday, May 10 was like any other day at school and home.  That evening, I turned on my laptop and went to Facebook.  Weird--I had several messages in my inbox.  I opened one up, and it gave me the news.  Steve Bryie had passed away over the weekend.  I went numb and cold, and kept repeating Oh my God, Oh my God.  I ran to Byron and told him the news.  I cried.  I called a couple of our mutual friends.  None of us could believe it.  It was just so strange.  He was here, he was fine, and now he was gone.  Gone.  I called his phone just hoping it was a mistake and got his voice mail.  I checked to see if he was online--not anymore.  I was absolutely in denial.
Fortunately, I was able to go home for his funeral.  It helped me get past the denial.  I met his mom, a very lovely woman, his sweet sister, and his beautiful daughters.  I found out he had died from a blow to the head when he fell down the stairs at his house.
A year later, I still think about him.  I think what bothers me the most are the questions I still have about his death.  Was he alone that night at home when he fell down the stairs?  Was it purely an accident?  Did he suffer before he died?  He had a confrontation with a family member of his married girlfriend about a week earlier.  Did that have anything to do with his death?
I know answers to my questions won't bring him back.  I know that.  And I know I'm not the only one who still misses him.  I can't imagine the agony his mom lives with and his poor daughters who are growing up without their dad.  It's so sad.  But I know what Steve would say to me.  He would say, "Hey Dumbass, stop whining.  You'll see me again one day, and we'll have those beers together then."  So until then, RIP my friend, RIP.

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