For several years an old friend has posted Facebook aphorisms with the key words adorned in title case. Gratitude. Love. Look. Soulmate. Partner. Equinox. “I don’t believe I’m the “Healer”, but I DO believe I’m hear as Your Facilitator in Your Healing process.Dr.Brad” They were often punctuated incorrectly, spaces missed on the keys, double-entry on DrDr. They were earnest and intentional, sprinkled with misspellings.
They were usually messages about being brave in the face of adversity, of loving the World and People around you, of finding your Angel and the Answers in front of your nose. They were admonitions to be Grateful and Aware. Because they were signed with Dr. Brad, his professional title, I had assumed that they were sort of professional in nature. He had been a chiropractor for two decades and I thought that his audience were clients following him on Facebook, that he was offering these thoughts in the role of a coach and mentor.
And then yesterday I was checking my messages while headed into a shop on a Christmas errand and a friend posted a picture of Brad with a message of his untimely passing. It was abrupt and unexpected (he was 51), but the second I read it I realized there had actually been clues: another mutual friend asked for my phone number a few weeks ago. He’d mentioned he’d had a surgery in early November. A recent profile photo showed he had aged a great deal in the last few years. And then I thought suddenly of his admonitions for courage and his messages as Dr. Brad and I had to stop and pull it together for a second. He wasn’t coaching patients. He was coaching himself, bravely and heroically. I realized with admiration and longing that I want to be that good and brave in the face of illness. And at that exact second I realized he was coaching me, too.
Here I thought I was his friend and it turns out I was his patient. (He would have loved that.)
Waves of loss rolled in the whole day yesterday. I was surprised by how deeply his death affected me. Unexpected deaths are always a bit like that especially when someone is so young. There is a kind of navigation in the dark for a while as you recalibrate, but the loss of Brad was more than that. I was telling my wife about him in the evening while she was cooking dinner and I realized that I was just really, really sad. There’s no better word for it. Just “sad.” I felt a huge, tearful, uncomplicated sadness at his death. I was explaining to her that he was a completely kind and gentle person, that he was “sweet” in a way only a gay man really gives himself permission to be, that he had been a dear friend of mine when we worked together for a number of years, that he would take your side irrationally in a dispute and stand by you, for one minute seeing it only your way and making you feel a bit better.
He was delighted by people and he could be a gossip and a sparkling charmer. He had a raconteur’s storytelling flair for accounts of the naughty things he’d done with people and chemicals, and he always had my ear and could get an easy laugh out of me. There was something charmingly pixie or elfin in him. Not that he looked exactly pixie or elfin – you need to picture a handsome guy, because he was – but you could imagine some elfish sprite in his ancestry. There was a hereditary mischief in him and I loved that about him because it was alloyed in something entirely good and full of light. He was the Opposite of a Dark Person. I always felt that we had a natural chemistry for friendship, but I was probably in pretty good company in that regard. I think that was just how he made people feel.
We’d met the first day at the opening of a new restaurant in Beverly Hills. We were walking from our cars and he was talkative and conspiratorial and funny and he knew me from my acting career and his family had something to do with Hang Ten clothing and only five minutes had passed and we discovered I was a Scorpio and he was an Aries and the stars said we should get along and that’s just how it always was after that. He noted a few years back that we’d never had a fight after all that time. We were friends across the somewhat divide of gay and straight, and when I saw him again a few years back at a reunion of friends from that same restaurant he hadn’t changed a bit: he was charming and full of smiles and sparklingly upbeat, almost on his toes when he made a strong point. He’d met a partner he loved and adored. He was a chiropractor and his career was a boon to him. His face still crinkled up and crackled when he smiled (the elfin ancestry).
And telling Melanie all of this I finally got to “he was just a beautiful guy, a beautiful man” and suddenly I had a child’s need to cry for a second and be hugged. Or, as his alter ego Dr. Brad would put it, Have a Child’s Need to Cry andBe Hugged! DrDr.Brad
There was a Sweetness in Brad that made the world a little less bitter, a lot more fun, and Infinitely more Kind.
You will be missed Old Friend, but you will also Be Present. Love Always.