Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jennifer & John

(Originally posted on MySpace on Sunday, December 16, 2007)

This was a hard blog for me to write. If there's ever been a time when I'm afraid I'll say the wrong thing and hurt the wrong feelings, its now. But I've always talked my mind and I'm not going to stop doing so now. I need to get this off my chest.

This week I received some unpleasant news from a friend named John. His wife got sick and within a few days, she had passed away. She had some sort of rare bacterial lung infection; the same thing that killed Jim Henson. Death of a loved one is always hard to deal with, but when it is so sudden and unexpected, it has to be extremely difficult. She was young, 38, and otherwise healthy throughout her life. She leaves behind her husband and three young children.

I met John years ago in 1994 when we were both part of a discussion group, alt.tv.real-world. It was a rollicking, fun group of people there. We used to have amazing conversations that sprung from events that happened on the TV show "Real World", but took off into topics and opinions far from what started the conversation. I don't know how John and I became friends. We were both opposites. He is a straight Christian conservative. I am gay and somewhat liberal. We would constantly argue politics and usually disagree, but I liked the fact that I was getting a viewpoint I seldom heard, and to tell you the truth, it help shape my political opinions in ways that surprised me sometimes. I also watched John change from a self-proclaimed conservative into a more easy-going Libertarian. The only thing we seemed to have in common besides that love of argument was perhaps a love of similar types of indie rock. Somewhere between the political debate and that interest in music we clicked and we remained friends long after the discussion group imploded with trolls and young empty-heads.

His wife, Jennifer was a high-up executive at the Cartoon Network. She was one of the people responsible for the Adult Swim lineup that I love so much. John was the house-husband, staying home to take care of the kids, as well as writing and working on whatever project he had going. Once a month or so, we would exchange emails letting each other know what was going on in our lives, as well as arguing the finer points of whatever political situation was happening, and exchanging recommendations of bands and movies we each thought the other would like.

After the birth of their third child two years ago, John became extremely busy and a bit disillusioned with politics, so the frequency of emails slowed to once every three or four months. But we knew each other was still out there and every now and then I'd get a message saying all was well or a link to family pictures. He is also subscribed to my blogs, so I knew he was reading those.

John lives in Georgia. At one time, he was a movie reviewer for a local paper and got sent out here to LA on press junkets a half dozen times, so we finally got to meet face-to-face. We always made sure to get together and talk at those times, usually over dinner or a movie, but sometimes only for short drink. It was during one of these junkets that I met Jennifer. I never got to know her very well as most of the conversation was between John and I, as it was online, but she seemed very nice, patient and somewhat bemused over this strange friendship her husband had with this crazy West Coast gay guy. I liked her right off the bat, but never got the chance to meet her again after that one time.

So, the news of her death hit me like a ton of bricks. And as events that happen to me tend to do, it sent me off thinking into places I usually avoid. My first inclination was to rail about religion and how a "loving God" could be so unfair. I still can't understand the Christian mindset that allows them to accept this kind of things as "God's Plan". But after sitting for a few days I've decided to reject that line of thinking. I still don't understand it, but since this happened to John and he's a Christian, I want to respect him and his beliefs. He's always respected mine. We all have different ways of expressing faith and I need to accept that. Eventually, someday down the line, I hope he's comfortable enough with the subject that we can talk about it.

I don't think about death much. I like to think I'm not afraid of it, and I think that's correct. I will admit to be worried about it though. I mean, who wouldn't be? No one really knows what it is like and what it will entail as it's happening, or even if there's something it entails after it happens. My view is that death is a natural function and it shouldn't be feared or avoided. In some ways I look at it as the last great adventure.

So I don't always think as death as a bad thing. I also don't always think of death as a sad thing. But in the case of Jennifer, I couldn't help but be overcome with grief. I don't know how I would react to the sudden death of Skip. Right now, I don't think I'd want to live without him, but under the real circumstance, I have no idea what I would do. It just makes me extremely sad to think about and it's really one of the first times I've reacted to a death in this way.

I think it's the sudden death part of it that gets to me. I've lost a good many close friends and family members over the years, but it's almost always been after a long illness and I've been able to prepare myself for it. Then, earlier this year, the greatest cat I've ever had in my life, a cat I considered as good of a friend as any human friend I've ever had, suddenly got ill and was dead within the week. I was devastated and in some ways I still am. I've never had that type of reaction before over the death of someone close to me. After a few days of mourning, I was always fine and got on with life again without a thought. But here it is six months later and I still find myself breaking down after thoughts of the cat and having restless nights of little sleep.

So if I reacted that way to the death of a cat, although a very special cat, I can't even imagine what it would be like if a person extremely close to me, like Skip, suddenly died from accident or disease. I don't know if I could ever get over it.

So my heart goes out to John and his family, especially at this time of year when family can be so important. I wish I could help more, but all I can offer is my friendship and hope that's enough. In the few email conversations I've had with him over the last week, he seems strong and completely together. I know he has to be for his kids, but I really admire him for this strength. I only hope I can show as much if and when this sort of tragedy happens to me.

And I think I should stop there.


I'm still working on the Graves Brothers Deluxe tour stories and hope to get those posted before the end of the year. Another email conversation amongst a group of my friends has got me thinking about high school and I'm mulling over doing a blog all about that next week. But a lot can happen in a week, so we'll see.

Until then, all of you take care of yourselves. There's only two more weeks left in this year and I hope that there will be no more bad news.

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