I found out today that a friend of mine passed away. He was an ex-colleague and moved to New York in May. He was so excited about living there! He was a loving, patient, wonderful guy way on the good side of 40. He was healthy and didn’t smoke. Yet somehow, in the middle of a city which claims to be one of the greatest in the world, with all this wonderful healthcare at hand this amazing guy full of vitality passed away of acute pneumonia.
I’ve cried inconsolably for most of the morning. I cried for the fact that I didn’t know that the last time I saw him would be the last time I’d ever see him again. I cried because I should have visited New York like I promised to when we last went out to lunch, because he would have been so excited about showing me the city he called his new home. He had asked all of us to visit and had told me his weekend guest calendar was filling up. I would have liked to have seen him smile with sincerity and empathy in his eyes, the way he always did. I cried because the world isn’t as bright as it used to be with him in it. I cried because on some level I didn’t keep in touch as much as I should have because I always believed he’d be back somehow. Back to the firm where he left tons of friends who had been sad to see him go, but who had been happy for him for his new adventure. I cried because my heart breaks when I think of his partner Gene and what he must be going through. I cried for my friend Alex who was very close friends with him. Alex moved into his apartment when Dennis had to leave. He can’t go home without seeing Dennis everywhere. Most of all, I cried because I couldn’t believe that he is gone.
We worked at the same office for four years and worked closely together for a year and a half until he left for the east coast. This has been a tough project and brought us closer with all the adversity we faced on it. When I doubted myself he always pointed out everything I’d accomplished and tell me I was doing fine. And when he was down, I tried to do the same. But he was so much better at it. It hasn’t been the same since he left. He left vestiges of himself all over the team area. There is his gumball machine staring at me from Alex’s desk, the one I’d told him I’d get tons of jellybeans for if I ever went to Petaluma. There is the sweet basket he always kept full. There is tons of hours he’s poured into the project I’m still working on, with his imprint and passion for his work all over it. There are the drawings he helped create sitting at the desk across from me that used to be his.
He died very close to his birthday. And he died before Halloween, one of his favourite days. Last year before he left, he wanted to make sure we remembered his last Halloween. He and Alex worked up a wonderful skit and made tons of costumes for the team. The tow of them dressed up as Hooter’s waitresses. The photographs for that event were part of the posters for this year. And everyone smiled when they thought of quiet and serious Dennis prancing around in a skirt and tube top. But I am now left with the realization that it was his last Halloween.
There are so many memories I associate with him even though I knew him a short time. There is the horse-shoe and bottle of whiskey that he won for me at the Kentucky Derby last year. The only time I ever won anything on a gamble was when Dennis placed the 25 cent bet for me. Instead of giving me the change I’d won, he bought me a bottle of Kentucky whiskey, even though he knew I don’t drink it. He told me to save it until he got back and that we’d open it to celebrate. I don’t think I will open that bottle as long as I live.
The world is colder place without you Dennis. And I will never think of New York the same way again. I know that wherever you are that it is a wonderful happy place. And I hope that I have done some good in my life because that is the only way I will ever meet you again. Godspeed, my friend….