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,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.
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'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.
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