Last night, I received the shattering news that a close friend, a man that I loved and admired, was no longer with us. My heart broke on the spot and through the steady stream of tears, I have tried to make sense of it. But I can't. I can't make sense of it because it doesn't make sense. Things like this aren't supposed to happen. I know I am not the only person to have lost a friend, but that doesn't make it any easier. I have also been fortunate enough (if you want to call it that) to have NEVER lost a young friend, Frank is the first.
Since I found out, I have been floating in and out of memories, my body giving into emotion and sobbing. Sobbing for what I lost, sobbing for what everyone else lost, and most of all sobbing for the future that he no longer has. I am not known for my ability to talk about my feelings, or for asking for help. My form of expression is, and always been, writing. Something that Frank and I shared.
I am not going to talk about how tragic it is to lose someone, partially because we all know, but also, because words are failing me. I can't describe the sense of loss accurately. Instead, I am going to talk about Frank the man. Who he was, what he meant to me, and why he was loved by everyone who was lucky enough to cross paths with him. This is my therapy, my tribute to him, a small piece of the legacy he is leaving behind.
Everyone who knew Frank will talk about his bright blue eyes and infectious smile. They will remember laughing with him. That even at the age of 19, he had such a strong sense of self, deeply rooted morals that he never wavered from. Something that a bunch of college kids couldn't really understand. Despite us respecting it and him, it made us a bit nervous, and probably, retrospectively, jealous. We were all trying to figure ourselves out and Frank already knew. He had a vision and he marched towards that.
Frank was a loving person, he truly and genuinely loved and cared for the people in his life. When he asked about your day, you knew it was because he actually wanted to know. He listened. You left every conversation with him feeling happier and more content than when you started it. He just had that effect on people. He had an inherent kindness and the ability to read and understand people, seeing beyond how they presented themselves on the surface.
For me (and I'm sure many others) it went beyond that. In the years I knew him, including one year as a housemate, Frank and I grew incredibly close, sharing many marathon conversations; meeting each others families; staying in all weekend and watching Sex and the City reruns (something he claimed he didn't enjoy and was doing for 'research' but I know he secretly liked it) He even perfected the art of how to apply self tanner on someones back. To this day, no one has self tanned my back as well as Frank did, taking on the frivolous task with a sense of purpose and attention to detail, all the while saying, "I can't believe I am doing this, what have you done to me?" As silly as it sounds, these memories, these day to day occurrences, are what made our bond what it was.
Perhaps the defining moment in my relationship with Frank was the day that my grandmother died. I was at my "prestigious" internship pushing paper when I heard the news, and I immediately called my friend Sarah to come pick me up. Sarah, being well aware of my tendency to retreat into myself in times of distress, called our housemates and told them what happened and just to give me space, that I needed to be alone. All of them but Frank listened. Frank walked into my bedroom with a bouquet of flowers, crawled into bed with me and held me as I cried, resulting in his t shirt being turned into a giant tissue. While I wasn't upset with others for following Sarah's explicit orders, I was overwhelmed by Frank knowing what I needed even when I didn't. That's who he was though. The man who loved others and put them before himself, selfless.
He not only wanted the best for us, but he saw the best as well. Our junior year, he decided to take all of the girls in the house (there were 13 of us) on a date. Individually. No romantic intentions. When we asked him why, he told us that he didn't want us wasting our time with men who didn't deserve us. That he was going to take us out and show us how we SHOULD be treated. He wanted us to know that gentlemen existed and that we didn't have to settle for anything less that outstanding. The thing is, that he didn't need to take us out for dinner to that, he showed us that daily, simply by being himself.
Throughout the years, our friendship continued. He moved to South Florida after university and I saw him whenever I was visiting my parents. When I moved to Vietnam, he actively and consistently made an effort to stay in touch with me, something I can't say for most of the friends I left behind. We shared pieces of writing, we edited each others work, and even discussed collaborating on a writing project he was working on.
My biggest regret is not failing to make feelings for Frank known, I know without a doubt that he was aware of how special he was to me. No, my biggest regret is that I couldn't make him love himself as much as he loved those around him. One of the most difficult parts for me about this whole ordeal is that Frank was a truly remarkable and incredible man. He had a light around him, he brought joy and wisdom and happiness into so many peoples lives, yet for whatever reason, he failed to find it in his own. He made our world a better place to live in but it was not reciprocated. I keep asking myself, "How could a man like that, a man who embodied positivity and love...a man who was esteemed by those around him...how could he not see what we see? How could he not love himself as we did?"
I realize that there is no use in asking myself questions like that, because there are no answers. I also know while the non stop crying is inevitable at this stage, that Frank would've encouraged me to "Get it out, come on, cry it out....are you finished? Now pick yourself up and be positive. Everything is ok." So I will do what he'd want me to do, which is to live my life to fullest, with integrity, and happiness. I won't get caught up in regret, in the negative. My time with him was too short but it was meaningful; he showed my love, kindness, compassion and insight. He opened himself up unabashedly and with no strings and as a result, he got the same from everyone else. He reminded me that gentleman exist and that it's ok to be vulnerable and ask for help. He encouraged me in every aspect of my life and made me feel like a better person, his faith in me gave me faith in myself. Most of all, he displayed that in a real friendship things like time zones don't exist. Real friendships exist in the heart, and he will forever be in mine.
April 13, 1984-April 30, 2013.