I happened to catch Paige’s tweet, working late in the office, and knowing she’s such a nice person I responded with my condolences.
She quickly mentioned she’d suddenly lost a friend, and I felt horrible, somehow connected to the pain of it because her mention of BIN36 brought me back to Chicago and I had this vision of a girl getting a phone call in a wood-panelled wine lounge, running into the darkness outside leaving a wake full of teardrops. It seemed of a movie, and I don’t know...I see hundreds of tweets and most of them are meaningless in the scope of things.
An hour later, still working, I got a message on Facebook from Tim McDonald, a man I’m not even sure I’ve met before. The note was short and respectful, to myself and another woman. Paraphrasing…
I noticed you two are my common friends with Paige, and I’ve just learned from her that Doug [redacted] died tonight. Details are spare, but it seems that he was in a restaurant, felt sick, went to the bathroom and collapsed, and could not be resuscitated. I thought that on the chance you knew him, you would like to know. Terribly sad.
Just like that Paige’s tweet was about an old friend of mine.
I met Doug on the internet.
I met him over lengthy, frothy, daily conversations on a web forum years and year ago, when I worked at a job that I hated and was becoming a blogger and web person. Back in those days social networking was on the horizon and content really was king…a forum was about ideas and anonymity was the default and taking relationships offline was a much trickier business.
Doug, myself, and a group of about 30 other Chicagoans managed to forge a bond that’s lasted long beyond our time online together, and through debates, jokes, and heartfelt digital conversations we managed to forge bonds that we did take offline, and many a bar in Chicago thanked us for it. Among the crowd we welcomed people of all shapes, sized, and ages, with a common thread of humor and intellect.
News of Doug’s passing, entirely sudden and terrifyingly random, snapped into focus the sheer vastness that the internet has brought to my relationships. Doug sits at the very beginning of my online presence, and is undoubtedly one of the most giving, friendly, shiny happy people I’ve connected with since then. He tutored me to my second LSAT (a twenty point improvement) and gave me fatherly advice about avoiding wrinkles as an older man (no joke). The guy was absolutely hilarious.
He was a man who lived full throttle, and he was older than most of us with his quirky take on life and penchant for finding humor in how young we all seemed. He made no apologies, and challenged anyone who did. He laughed. He was always there to laugh.
We all have friends we should keep in touch with more. We have new friends who seem to fill in where old relationships seem to step aside. We have friends we’re connected to all the time, no matter what.
But we also have friends that are just friends…there really isn’t a reason we’d be in touch, really, but we’re friends. We went through life on the same boat for a while, and that was that and you’re simply friends.
Doug was one of those friends…but the kicker was that he was one of those friends who continued, after nearly a decade, to regularly reach out to me. I’ve learned throughout the week he was this way with nearly everyone.
When I moved to Vancouver, Doug would drop me a note via chat on Facebook. Something like “so are you finishing your sentences with “eh” yet??”
I’m not exaggerating when I say this happened about once a week. Often I’d have forgotten I had Facebook open, or I’d be done and bouncing out, and I wouldn’t respond.
This isn’t a post about regret or anything like that…
It’s a post about how many god damn wonderful people are walking around today, and today is when you have them.
I thank the world I knew Doug. I wish that last Friday, the last time he sent me a funny note on Facebook…the last time that will ever happen…I do wish I’d said hey back. Told him I was still a Chicagoan.
That’s for him, though…I hope where he is he knows he was great and we all knew it.
Just live your way, today. Do it and don’t do it any other way.
Doug did and he didn’t all the days he thought he would.