I am approaching the three year anniversary of the death of my best friend for nearly twenty years. He died at the age of twenty nine. His death had a profound impact on me and I haven’t really talked about it until now. I’ve decided to open up and share my feelings in the hope that you may be able to reach out and help someone in your life.
Anthony and I instantly became best friends at the age of twelve when we used to skateboard together in the seventh grade. He was a larger than life type of guy. He was physically a big guy as well. Standing over 6 feet tall and around 250 pounds. He was built like a football player. He was such a beautiful human being and had the biggest heart of anyone I had ever met in my life. He would give you the shirt off of his back and he was well known for his bear hugs.
No matter what kind of day I was having, I could always count on him to make me smile. He was such a powerful force of life. Spiritually, he operated on a higher level than most. But for all of the healing he did for other people and all the happiness he made others feel, he had troubles of his own and eventually this caused him to turn to drugs. Sometimes I think that instead of healing his own pain, he focused his energy on helping other people with theirs. While just numbing his own with drugs.
In high school, I used to drive him to school everyday. I remember on the morning of September 11th 2001, he called me and woke me up. He told me to turn on the TV because we had just been attacked. I watched the tv in shock for a few minutes and then drove to his house. On the way to school that day, our conversation was heavy. We talked about why and who would do something like this to us. We also discussed if we should join the military to go and fight these cowards.
He and I spent a lot of time together in high school and we would often skip class to go into the woods and just talk about life. During one of our many conversations, the topic of death came up and he told me that he never saw himself living past thirty years old. This lead to us discussing the afterlife and we made a promise to each other that if one of us were to die, we would somehow let the other one know if there was an afterlife.
I knew Anthony before he ever did any drugs, even marijuana (which is pretty commonplace for kids who grow up in California) I watched his progression throughout the years into harder and harder drugs. But he found a way to manage his addictions. He graduated high school, completed a trade school, and was working a good job.
No one will ever know what was inside of his mind but if I had to guess where his life took that fateful turn, it would be during this period in his life when he experienced a horrible family tragedy followed a few years later by a physical injury that lead to the discovery of prescription drugs. Those prescription pain killers lead to heroin and I think that is what sealed his fate. It’s incredible how someone’s life can take such a drastic turn just because of one or two events in their life. This can happen to any one of us. As humans, we are all vulnerable and we need to remember how precious and fragile life really is.
We fell out of touch for around 5 years but I always thought about him. In 2011 I decided to reach out to him and sent him an email. He seemed genuinely happy that I reached out and we set up a time to meet. By this time I was married, had two children, and a career in the tech industry. When I saw him, it killed me inside. He was not the same Anthony. I suspected that he was heavily using heroin or similar drugs. I told him that if he could get clean, I would help him get on his feet and I would even help to find him a job. But I insisted that he must stay clean and drug free.
That was the last time we ever spoke. From what I heard, he went to a rehab facility some time after this and got himself clean. After 10 months of being sober, he had a health issue for which he took prescription pain killers. This got him hooked just like before and lead to him using heroin again. He overdosed on heroin and died.
I remember the day well. A mutual friend called me, told me that he had died, and when the funeral would be. At his funeral, I went alone and sat in the back. There were a lot of old friends from high school in attendance but I didn’t really talk to anyone. I didn’t want to. I sat in the back, paid my respects, and left. After his funeral, for the next several months, I began to have dreams about Anthony. In my dreams, I always felt like he was trying to communicate something but when I woke up, I could never remember enough to decipher it. In the dreams, he always appeared as the old Anthony, the way I remember him. Happy, healthy, and with a big smile on his face.
I remember every detail about one dream in particular. I was standing alone and to my right there was a long, dark, hallway that I couldn’t see the end of. To my left were the same woods that he and I used to go to together back in high school. The woods felt happy and peaceful. It was a bright and sunny day. It was just me standing alone there for a few minutes. Then I saw Anthony. He walked out of the long dark hallway and he passed right in front of me as he continued to walk from the dark hallway into the sun filled woods. Just before he was out of sight, he turned around and smiled and me. Then he continued walking and disappeared into the quiet peacefulness of the woods.
That was the last time I ever dreamed about him. I knew this was his way of telling me that there was an afterlife and that he was happy now. This dream gave me peace and closure about his death. Looking back, I regret that I didn’t try to step in and do more before it was too late. If you know anyone struggling, step in and do what you can so they can get help they need before it’s too late. Everyday that we are alive is a gift that we often forget to be thankful for.