A dear friend passed away recently. He had just left the gym, and out of the clear blue sky he had a cardiac arrest. I keep wondering about this moment and hope so badly that his last gaze at this beautiful life was not through fearful eyes. I hope he did not feel alone.
He was alone when this happened though, and a stranger found him and called 911. The ambulance took him to the hospital, and he remained in a coma without brain activity for more than two weeks. I cannot begin to imagine what this time was like for his parents, who released him from artificial support after this time. It was a few more days before his body, – well, it released him from the prison of his coma.
This friend of mine was only 37, but his 38th birthday would have been soon (the start of July, we were one year apart in age). He had no known medical conditions, as in NONE. He was the epitome of fitness, aside from drinking here and there (and smoking cigarettes when he did). He always physically pushed himself to extreme limits though, and I wonder if he had pushed himself too far?
It is amazing how life can feel so short, yet in the same breath I want to say that it feels as though it was at least 5 lifetimes ago that I invited myself (yes, you read that correctly) to his 22nd birthday party. We knew one another from the gym, and shortly after this birthday we dated for a year or two. He was a student, and I was a ‘bad influence’ (ha!) who helped him with his homework. We were both obsessed with working out, drank like fish, and ran around doing wildly irresponsible – but very fun – things together. We invented alcoholic protein shakes, which we thought were brilliant and which actually illustrates our gym obsession, alcohol consumption, and irresponsibility quite well. Oh, to be young!
It wasn’t all working out and drinking like children. In 2003 when Bush invaded Iraq, we set up a camp in the living room so that we could watch the coverage on TV 24/7. That was admittedly more a me thing than his idea, but we both brushed off the outside world and we were glued to this coverage for days. There was that time we drove down the West coast to California during a monsoon, and I actually arm-wrestled a tiger in Oregon along the way. The massive indoor water fight in a rented apartment. The full year that he insisted he had invented a hair style. Maybe he did invent it… Chalant the fish (what is the opposite of nonchalant?). The Festivus pole. Colour-blind pants shopping hilarity. The list goes on…
I remember all of our times so fondly, and I always will.
Our romantic relationship did not last (obvs), but we remained friends for many years after all of this. We both grew up and built our lives in the 15 or so years since then. I travelled and lived in different countries, built multiple businesses and careers, and eventually found love at home in Canada. He never did have another serious relationship, but he built a formidable career and he travelled extensively. Through all of this my obsession with fitness tapered off, but his seemed to intensify. I still called him ‘Monster’ even in our very last conversation, which was in 2016. I used to call him that because he was such a beast in the weight room, but he did not care for this nickname.
It’s more fair to say that my obsession with fitness (more accurately, with raw strength and the appearance of fitness) did not taper, but it actually transferred to obsessions with other types of achievements. This obsessive nature has served me well – or so I have told myself. People have expressed concern about my apparent inability to stop pushing myself to reach goals on more occasions than I can count, but I have usually found reasons to ignore them. After all, I always do reach my goals.
Now that the above has been stated, my question of the hour, dear readers, is this:
Where is there left to go when one pushes oneself so far that there is no more of an edge upon which to balance?
If my friend’s story is some kind of a cruel cautionary tale, then why did it not happen to someone who was somehow more deserving of this fate? If what happened to him is a warning, it is a rotten one. Is it a warning though?
Going to need some time to reflect, and perhaps to make a few changes.
KRS, you are gone but not forgotten.
Yet if hope has flown away, In a night, or in a day, In a vision, or in none, Is it therefore the less gone? All that we see or seem, Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar, Of a surf-tormented shore, And I hold within my hand, Grains of the golden sand — How few! yet how they creep, Through my fingers to the deep, While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp, Them with a tighter clasp? O God! can I not save, One from the pitiless wave? Is all that we see or seem, But a dream within a dream?