Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Death of a Friend

This week a friend of mine died. 

I've lost a lot of friends in recent years.  All but my friend Dave died because of choices they made. 

I can't sugarcoat this shit today.  Not today. 

Sure, we all die.  And it sucks for somebody that gets left behind.  Right now there are hundreds of Korean parents in anguish on an island.  They sit at the docks and wait for word the divers have found the body of their child in a sunken ship.  It's a horrible thing. 

I'll be honest, when I first heard about that ferry disaster, my blood turned electric and shot around my body.  I thought of my daughter--the one I lost contact with.  The one who thinks her daddy hates her.  The one who has no idea I'm alive.  Or that I think about her every fucking day. 

I lost contact with my wife and daughter through a series of terrible choices, bad luck and horrible turns of fate.  They moved while I was homeless.  I don't have a way to find them and they don't have a way to find me.  As far as they know, I turned my back on them.  As far as I know, they hate my guts.  One day my daughter might come to America and put a bullet in me for how things worked out.  And while it wasn't all my fault, I'll accept the consequences and her anger.  That's life.  And I hate myself for what happened, too. 

But I checked the information on who was on that ferry.  She wasn't there.  Too young, different area, different economic class.  Those were the kids of well-off parents on that ferry.

It was a small sigh of relief and then back to burying all that emotion so I can get through my day without losing what is left of my mind.

Death is always the final outcome.  Death always wins.

And I'm angry at the friend who died this week because he did so much to help Death find him.

I worked with Derek Murphy for about a year.  I'll be honest and say I didn't think much of him until I had to help him key an order.  He was smart as hell and easy to talk to.  He was also nice.

This is what makes it so hard for all of his friends--Derek was a nice guy.  He always had a quick joke and a good take on things.  He didn't bitch and complain about stuff.  It was easy to like him and hard not to like the Durtman.  He had a couple of nicknames.  Durty, Durtman, Murph.

He was generous.  Maybe too generous, at times, as he liked to buy tons of pizza and share with everybody.  He was already well-liked but maybe he didn't understand it.  Maybe he needed more.

In the first 48 hours after his death, a number of people told me they felt some guilt towards his death.  Derek, at the young age of 29, weighed close to 600 lbs.  He wasn't very mobile and had health problems directly related to his weight.

People wondered aloud to me if they had done enough, if they had said enough to him, told him how they didn't want him to die like this.  I had the same conversations with him.  I think we all did.  Nobody wanted him to die like this.

We tried.

I know a bunch of people feel guilty.  Maybe they didn't do or say enough to get him to pull out of the nose-dive he was in towards a certain and very early death.  Maybe we didn't keep the bad food away from him, or helped him get the food so he didn't have to get up and do it himself, or we allowed him to keep doing what he was doing in some way. 

This is common in times like these and nobody has any right to own that guilt. Derek made choices and those choices had a price.  He knew the price and kept on making those choices. 

In the last few months of his life something changed in him.  I felt like he had committed himself to death while talking about making changes.  There was a strange disconnect between word and deed.  And then the infection in his legs got bad, as it did every winter, and he let it go too long before seeing a doctor. 

Murph told me himself that the doctors said he was almost too late, how it had gotten so bad that the infection had crept up onto his stomach.  He posted pictures of his legs on Facebook and I wanted to puke.  He was in serious trouble and he knew it. 

But Durtman played it off.  He joked around.  I got on him about it and he deflected for a bit, then he stopped talking to me.  He didn't want to hear me say I wanted him to live.  Maybe it was too painful to hear.  I don't know. 

All I know is when I found out he was dead, I was angry because I watched a guy slowly die and he seemed to just let it happen.  It was like he was committed to a certain fate and nobody else was going to change that for him. 

I refuse to feel guilty about this and I refuse to allow anybody else feel guilt themselves.  It sucks, I know, but when a kamikaze pilot is in a nose-dive towards a certain fate, you're not going to talk him out of it and you will never be able to reach up and steer the plane for him. 

It was a done deal and we were forced to bear witness. 

It's easy for me to sit in the cheap seats and make comments about how somebody else is handling their life.  Mine is a soup sandwich surrounded by landmines, demons and festering with mold and open sores.  But since the flies aren't buzzing around my head at the moment, I can say I'm feeling okay. 

It's amazing what a human being can get comfortable with after the smallest improvement. 

My pants are looser, I'm dropping weight.  Today I tried to go for a walk and my knee started to hurt.  Instead of facing reality I'm blaming it on the storm moving through the area.  I wonder if Murph told himself the same bullshit as well. 

Right now I'm working up the courage to write a letter to the Korean Consulate in Chicago to see if they can help me find my family.  I'm not sure I can face it, but lately the price of not doing so seems so selfish.  And I'm tired of burying stuff so I can get through my day.  I'm tired of ignoring screaming echos and shutting down so I can function. 

I'll do this, I'll fall apart, I'll melt down and I'll be just another human being.  I have friends who know me very well and know I'm so fucking tired of digging holes so I can wake up in the morning and not scream my god damned head off at the top of my lungs at the gods. 

Through death we learn to live.  Thank you, Durty. 

The Durtman is dead.  Long live the Durtman! 



  1. Sorry to hear about Derek, but well said! Good luck finding your family, Teddy!

  2. Good luck finding your family ted and the things u said were all so true i just wish it wasnt the dirtman

  3. Look for your wife and daughter. Your daughter will be glad you did -- even if she is angry.

    I'm sorry about your friend.

  4. This is an amazing post, Ted. A-Fucking-mazing.

  5. Thank you for sharing this Ted. Write that letter, I hope you can locate your family.

  6. I'm sorry about the loss of your friend, Ted. Wishing all success in finding your family.