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  • Writer's pictureeschaden

Two in a Year...Once in a Lifetime.

I have been blessed throughout my life with a diverse friend group. Old, young, recovering, active, angry, happy - they have been varied for sure. Some of them have been people I have been extremely close to and others more of periphery people.

I tend to like irreverent. I tend to like different. I tend to enjoy people who make many other people uncomfortable. I like people who upset the apple cart. I like people who tell the truth. I like people who are so themselves that they make the rest of us pale in comparison. I appreciate people who are unabashedly who they are, often to their own detriment, but remain steadfast to themselves regardless of what the rest of us think.

I haven’t really known so many people like this. A few, a small handful of those people so possessed by their own personality that they are seemingly unafraid to be who they are. They not capable of the facade building that the rest of us do all the time. They are rare. They are intense. They are often times the exact same people that you want to run over and cover their mouths every time they begin to speak.

I lost two of these friends in this last year. Not COVID accidents. Sudden, gross departures from this world. Taken in an instant. Both men were people I admired for their fortitude, honesty, and courage. Both men that were so themselves that they made many of the rest of us uncomfortable in our own skin. This was not a volitional act on their part...they were just so much who they were and with that came a fierce courageousness of being exactly who they were. It was like both of them were born into this world, suffered some pretty horrific abuse and the alchemy that occurred within their souls was an enviable lack of shame about who and what they were.

Both men struggled with addiction. Both men recovered...sometimes. One of them held on for a very long time, but ultimately circled through the revolving door of recovery until his death. The other spent years doing that but then finally surrendered and lived the rest of his days sober. He married a great woman also in recovery and lived the rest of his days happy, joyous and more free than most people I know.

They are both gone now. One left us yesterday and the other late last year. I miss them both. The first one I have so missed that I haven’t been able to write about it until now. He so permeated my life and impacted in so many ways with his intelligence, humor and grace that the loss felt too personal to share. I so admired him and his ability to encircle himself with love and true friendship. He seemingly able to figure out that magic combination of authenticity and connection that seems to still elude me so often.

The one we lost yesterday was a tortured soul for sure. He struggled, he pissed people off. He was misunderstood and sometimes feared. But he was a kind soul that only wanted love, acceptance and for you to laugh at his often ill timed jokes. He was who he was and I loved him for that.

The two men never met, one lived most of his life in DC and the other local to Ojai Valley for most of his life. I hope that they are able to meet in that next plane...that they can have a conversation. I think that they would find in each other a responsive ear and loving heart. I think that they would be able to laugh at the rest of us and our failures to understand their quick minds and brilliant hearts.

So that is where I am going to place them in my mind. Together, talking at their mutual rapid fire pace, sometimes so quickly that their ears cannot keep up with their mouths. I pray that both men have finally achieved a peace that they both so honestly deserved and that somewhat alluded them in this life. I hope they know that they were loved, they were appreciated and that they both changed me and my life for the the better.

Justin and Chris, may you be forever remembered as catalysts for change, souls who broke the mold and caused the rest of us to have to think and sometimes have to dive more deeply into our own souls to find a way to coexist with yours. Make no mistake, I always thought you the better person. Make no mistake, that I appreciated your humor, kindness and grace. And you touched my life in your unique way that made a difference in my heart.

I miss you both deeply. There will never be anyone like either of you. And I am so very grateful to have known you and called you friend. Thank you for waking me up, making me pay attention to all the ways that I showed up for this life arrogant, cocksure and selfish. It wasn’t a goal for either of you to teach me this about myself, but you did and I am forever grateful. Thank you for your amazing courage to walk through the horrors of your lives and still bring so much laughter, love and kindness to all of us who so desperately needed it. I am eternally grateful. You are missed and irreplaceable.

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