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Goodbye to a friend and coworker. - Paint It Black
Living the American dream one heartbreaking piece at a time
Goodbye to a friend and coworker.
I haven't written in this for a while, mostly because of the same old complaints -- too busy with work, etc. That changed today. I'm forcing myself to make whatever time is necessary in order to write this entry. This is important to me, if only to serve as a warning when I look back through this journal in the future. As I set out to write this I don't know if it will be a brief entry or a long one, but I have to write it anyway. It is imperative -- I need to get this out of me.

When I started work today, I was not expecting it to be anything remarkable or different from the usual day to day routine of the office. Mostly I figured it was just another week, with another split shift and set of overnights as I work on the Big Initiative To Fix Voice Over IP. I'd only been sitting at my desk for an hour when an e-mail came in from my new manager (my supervisor was promoted last week to fill the position that had been left open when AC was released from the company). I cannot express my surprise and dismay when I opened it and saw what was written inside it.
To all,

Bogie died this past Friday, I learned about it through Sunday's Obituaries which SW passed on to me. If you have any interest in reading it, I have a copy in my office.
I sat in shock for a minute, just staring at Outlook. I couldn't believe this news. Part of me wanted to deny that it was real, to claim that it had to be some sort of horrible mistake. After I gathered myself I went down to DR's office and without asking his permission stepped in, picked up the paper and turned it over. There it was, black ink on grey newsrag -- Bogie's obituary. I read through it twice, then put it back on DR's desk and returned to my cube without a word. As I sat down I felt something inside me shatter. It wasn't the dry break of a stick or a branch, it wasn't even the sound of a dam breaking. The only way I can describe it is to say that, in my mind, it was as if something more fragile and eloquent had been defenestrated from a highrise.

I'd written about Bogie here a few times before, referring to him as The Incredible Farting Coworker, because that's exactly what he was. The irony (thick and crunchy style, for those of you who like it that way) is that all of his gas was due to the cancer that was eating up his digestive tract from the inside out. But we didn't know that, back then -- we just thought he was an eccentric coworker who couldn't stay awake in meetings and needed to lay off the broccoli and cheese soup. It was in February of 2004 that Bogie went to the doctor for an examination after some alarming things started happening to him ... and he never came back to the office. I learned he had taken a medical leave of absence from work after being diagnosed with cancer. First he was on short term disability, then on long term disability... and once the long term disability insurance ran out, DeVry quietly let him go. At that point he had to fend for himself, taking odd jobs wherever he could and paying whatever he had into COBRA so as to continue with his treatments.

In that 2004 entry I wrote that the doctor was giving him five years at the very best. The best obviously didn't happen -- Bogie only got one. From everything I've been able to find out, that one year was of very poor quality and was filled with a lot of pain.

I've had a lot of death around me in my 27 years on this planet. I've lost grandparents and neighbors, cousins and friends. Strokes, old age, suicides, massive infections, accidents. I've seen somebody's brain laying on a highway. I've been witness to somebody burning to death in a vehicle as the rescue crews struggled to cut the wreckage open. I'm not trying to pass it off that I'm so jaded or cynical, so ice-cold or removed that the passing of another human being doesn't affect me... but that impact has been dramatically reduced by all this. I've lost too many people around me, I've been on too many emergency medical calls with my father, I've been in too many funeral processions... something has given me a sort of emotional barrier towards most of what goes on in this world. Bogie's death, however, struck me deeply. I feel that there are two reasons for this. First, I have acute survivor's guilt. I've struggled for over a decade with this. I still cannot fathom while those around me with cancer are taken from us when I was allowed to live. My father's friend Tom passed from cancer around the time I was diagnosed to be in remission. Tom was a father, a husband, a volunteer and one hell of a firefighter. He had a small hobby farm of a dozen acres or so not far from where my parents' farm is. I lived, Tom passed. I couldn't reconcile it. I still can't. Each successive friend, associate or family member whom I've lost to cancer has put me squarely back in that same mindset. I'm confused, lost and without answers as to why I'm still alive and this other person isn't. It seems like there's no rhyme or reason to it at all. Simply put, it upsets me greatly.

Maybe that's the real bitch of it. If there was at least some sort of discernable cause and effect it might be easier to take into oneself.

When I read that obituary I was immediately seized by a wave of guilt that threatened to completely wipe me out... but that wasn't the only demon I had to face this morning. I also had to face myself. I had to face the fact that I felt terrible because of my actions towards Bogie -- or, more accurately, my complete lack of them. On and off for the last six months I've said to myself and others around me, "I should call Bogie tonight," or "I'm going to call Bogie tonight," or "I'm going to swing by Batavia, look Bogie up and see how he's doing. I bet he'd like some company." Yet I never did any of those things. Bogie... was a lonely guy. He was divorced and had no children. He lived alone in an old house in one of the more removed suburbs. He had nobody to keep him company but his two cats, and he doted on those cats the same way I dote on Ra (His cats were mentioned in the obituary, actually; I will post tomorrow as a reminder to myself. It's hard for me not to draw a bit of a parallel between Bogie and myself because of some of the things we shared in common). Because of that isolation, I know he would have loved that contact, yet I never took the 30 seconds to pick up the phone and make that simple call. I didn't make the 30 seconds nececessary to dial a number and say, "Hey, Bogie, we haven't forgotten about you over here, man."

Well, no phone calls now without a spirit guide.

I've got a serious self-hate going on at this moment. It's been going on all day, actually. I'm absolutely furious with myself -- rabid, blind, directionless rage is all I feel when I think about the fact that I let Bogie die like that. As I told a few friends this morning after composing myself, "Alone and forgotten is no way to go, man." I cannot believe that after Bogie left DeVry for his treatment and surgery that none of us ever said anything to him, never took the time to make that call or send a card. It's like we eliminated him from reality, or rewrote history to make it so that he was never here.

That's wrong.

That's criminal.

To add just one more stick of dynamite to the cheerful little bonfire of self-loathing I've got burning in the pit of my soul, I couldn't even attend Bogie's funeral. As he died on Friday, the funeral was today at 11 AM. Since I only found out at 8:30 there was no way for me to make any arrangements... I couldn't send flowers, I couldn't take time off to go to the service, nothing. I'm a fucking survivor of cancer and I couldn't even be there to apologize and tell him how sorry I am that I failed him as a human and as a friend. I wanted to tell him I was sorry I had forgotten and procrastinated and left him alone in these last few months. I wanted to say goodbye to him.

I have a lot of regrets in my life, both small and large. I am going to take away a lesson from this, and if anybody can learn from my mistake here, learn this: do whatever it is you're thinking of. Don't hesitate. Don't wait. Say what you mean, say what you feel, tell the other person. Seize that moment, because if you wait it's going to be too late and they're going to be gone. You will regret it... and it's those regrets that will kill you in the end. It truly is the lingering death of a thousand cuts.

Shit, I'm crying again.

Since I can't seem to write anymore, I'm going to close with this...

Bogie was a lot of things. He was a veteran and served in the U.S. Air Force with distinction. He'd been a garbage man and a taxi driver. For a number of years he was the SysOp of "I CAN" BBS, a board focused on serving the disabled and senior communities near Chicago. He was crude and lewd, he was intelligent and funny. He was eccentric, but was a hard worker and he knew Solaris inside and out. He was a great asset to DeVry. He loved his cats as if they were his children and did everything to keep them happy and healthy. He was a good man.

May you rest well, Bogie Bugsalewicz. I promise I will not forget again.

At the end of an endless circle, I know what I'm searching for

Tags: ,
Current Mood: sad sad
Current Music: Queensryche - Silent Lucidity

9 thoughts or Leave a thought
wolfbrotherjoe From: wolfbrotherjoe Date: March 8th, 2005 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not saying it'll make everything OK, but ... you could still visit his gravestone and talk to him. Apologize to him.

Thank you for this. I am victim to the same malady of 'there's always next weekend'. This inspires me to fix that.
enveri From: enveri Date: March 8th, 2005 01:51 am (UTC) (Link)
...And while I'm wishing you a happy birthday, I want to say again that I'm so happy to have you as a friend in my life. You've made a very big difference for me, and I know that you've made a big difference in Bren's life as well. I'm so happy to see him with you. Remember that.

What you didn't do for Bogie.. you did for me. And, God forbid, if I died tonight in my sleep, I'd have these words ringing in my ears. I wish I could share your pain, make the load less heavy for you. All I can do is tell you that you're a very special person, and I love you very much. If you'd like company to visit Bogie's grave... you have only to ask.
neuracnu From: neuracnu Date: March 8th, 2005 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)

He was remembered

If only as the incredible farting coworker, you knew who he was. He touched your life. If he weren't there, you wouldn't be who you are now.

I started thinking about this on Sunday. My parents invited me over for dinner that night along with my brother and his lady. It seemed like the opportune time for them to let us know of their relationship intentions (ie: "we're getting married!") but it didn't happen. Regardless, it got me thinking about my own legacy. I'm the the 2nd of three kids and the last to get hitched. This is no big surprise. But fast forward 50 or 60 years and what will my legacy be?

Insert brooding and depressing downer-thoughts here.

In short, at the very least, my legacy will be the people I influenced - those who knew me and whose lives I've changed, if only a little. And I'm ok with that. I don't need any thanks, because I was there. I know the look in somebody's eyes when they need directions or a light or a hug from a stranger. They don't need to know who I am or what I did for them - it's just my contribution.

Gravestones crumble and epitaphs fade into obscurity. The best way to honor someone is to just remember them. I think you've got that down.
nekosensei From: nekosensei Date: March 8th, 2005 10:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow! I'm so sorry! It's hard when you lose a co-worker like that. About a year and a half ago, I lost a co-worker (a fellow Spanish teacher) to cancer. She had had breast cancer five years ago, and it redeveloped in her lungs and her liver. She was diagnosed in Spring and she was dead by the end of the year. Before the first semester ended, I found out that the cloud of cancer in her lungs and the spot on her liver spread to her brain. I wanted to go visit, but I had a cold and I didn't want to make her sick. Instead, I planned to visit her after the first of the year. I also was trying to get together a project where a bunch of faculty and students could get together and fold 1000 oragami cranes for her and her family. I thought it would be a nice touch. It never happened. She died on December 28th.

Donna was practically a saint. She was such a nice person. It took me several months before I got over having bad dreams about it. Before the end of the year, the head of the yearbook asked the foreign language department to write something for the yearbook. My reflection took the form of a poem called, "Baby-stepping to Paradise," an approach she used to take towards anything difficult. Anytime she confronted anything hard, she would "take baby-steps." In other words, she would break it into smaller parts and slowly adjust herself. My department head read it and told me that the poem described her perfectly, so perfectly in fact that she almost cried.

How can we describe the loss
Of such a friend as Donna?
She had a heart worth more than its weight in gold.
A generous soul who blessed us with her love
And her many talents for only a short time.
When darkness seemed to overshadow all
She still had the courage to hope.
In the end, with a smile the color of sunshine
Another angel went baby-stepping her way to paradise.

Maybe you could offer to write something similar for your department / company? You're a very good writer and it really does help.

*big hugs* Hang in there! It will get better!

By the way, I didn't know you had cancer? What type? How long did it take you to go into remission?
harlee_one From: harlee_one Date: March 8th, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
*HUGS TIGHT* I know it's hard to deal with this and I wish I could say or do something to lift the pain as well. I know I haven't known you very long but I know that I care deeply and also love you. You know I worry about you a lot. So please leave me a note or something so I know you are okay. I want to be here as much as I can for you. *sighs* I truely wish I lived closer to you. Just please, please leave me some little note, heck if you can call me..you have my cell #, right? *HUGS* Love you, Lots and forever (as long as you will let me)
ronbar From: ronbar Date: March 8th, 2005 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of what kind of cancer are you a survivor?
jdm314 From: jdm314 Date: March 8th, 2005 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry to hear that.

From the obituary it looks like there's not even a survivor to send flowers too. But perhaps he has a designated charity?
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 20th, 2005 01:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Bogie's Passing

As a friend of Bogie's for about 18 years, I too have felt his passing.

He didn't go downhill and die alone, however. His neighbors, Mike and Mary
Hanrahan, had practically adopted him, and were constantly checking on him,
assisting him, and in the end, made sure he had a proper send-off. This
with three sick children of their own.

My wife Jean and I did our best, too, despite being in Chicago. During his
3.5 months in the hospital, we came out to Batavia every 3 days to give
Bumper, his "Polish" Siamese, a pill. Only Jean or Bogie could manage to
accomplish this. We'd then pay him a visit at the hospital, have
dinner, and head for home. After he was released, we'd call him every
night, and visit him every Sunday, feeding him pizza. In the last weeks,
we were trying to visit twice a week, just to get some food into him. He
had become quite week, but didn't suffer any pain until the last couple
of days of his life, before he slipped into a coma.

We met when we had both worked for the City of Chicago. He was working
with our three "NEW" IBM PC's (real 5150-B's!) to drag the Bureau of
Traffic into the late 20th Century. I got to be his "assistant sysop"
on I CAN: read: I tested new features as he installed them by remote.

I suppose that he would still have been here, if the bosses had made
good on their promises of better pay, when the tumor was found...

BTW, Herbie and Bumper now live with Jean & myself.

From: (Anonymous) Date: March 21st, 2005 02:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Bogie's Passing

Now that you've heard from my husband, I have to chip in. Bogie had stomach cancer, not esophageal cancer. The "3.5 months in the hospital" was _last_ year, because of complications from his original surgery. And last but not least, he had been a major "gas generator" for the entire 18 years I knew him, so it couldn't have been the cancer causing it.

He's buried in West Batavia Cemetary, on the far right side, near the baseball diamond in the next-door park. I don't think his gravestone has been installed yet, so the grave might be hard to find.
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