Farewell, and thanks, to a friend

by GK on January 19, 2010 · 11 comments

If you’re more into posts about parties and picking up girls than death and inspiration, feel free to skip this one. But if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to remember someone special. Perhaps he’ll have the same effect on you that he had on me.

In July 2007, just days after I’d been laid off from my job of 6 1/2 years, I took a two-week tour of the Greek islands. The trip was booked months earlier, and I wasn’t in the best state of mind for a trip of debauchery and socializing. But I hoped that being thousands of miles away from my worries would help me to begin overcoming them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I met someone on my tour who was doing the same thing.

His name was Demetrios, but none of us called him that. We called him D, or “Dirty D,” because of his raunchy sense of humor. He was a 5-foot-7, chubby, Greek bowling ball of fun with a devilish smile and a superhuman alcohol tolerance, and among the 35 of us party kids who traveled together, he was the most liked. Perhaps it’s because he made us feel so liked.

It’s also because he didn’t have a fake bone in his body, and he lived every minute of our trip as if it was his last. After one night of partying, he was the first of us to splash into the resort pool at 4:30 a.m. even though it was prohibited, and that same morning, he climbed into the girls’ bedroom through a window, only to be greeted with laughs. I’ve seen some “high-on-life” people who were putting on an act, but D was the real thing.

He and I bonded my first day there, as we made everyone’s eyes roll by repeatedly quoting “Seinfeld” jokes. I have a video of us singing a horrible, drunken rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” But we also spent time on the beach talking about the horrors of war our ancestors went through. We both chased girls over there — he better than I — but I had a whirlwind bromance with him.

It wasn’t until we parted ways and I returned home that D told me he was spending that year exorcising all kinds of personal demons, and he had done so by having a blast. I used that as fuel to overcome my own insecurities about no longer working full time in a dying industry, and a few months later I found a new calling with Charisma Arts. D lived in Australia, but I vowed to visit him in Melbourne or travel again so we could get into more trouble together.

That never happened, however. We kept in touch, but real life and geography got between us. I last communicated with him when I left a happy-birthday note on his Facebook profile on Oct. 20. He responded with a “Seinfeld” line.

Four days ago, I went to his profile again, only to find a series of “rest-in-peace” messages. Stunned, I e-mailed the girlfriend listed on his profile to find out what happened, and she told me D was hospitalized with complications from Swine Flu in November. Three weeks later, he was gone. By coincidence, our tour guide was visiting me from Australia this past weekend, and I had to break the news to him. This is the second time in less than two years that a friend of mine has died in his mid-30s, and my heart is heavy right now.

I don’t want to waste your time with a bunch of “life-is-short, seize-the-day” cliches. You’ve heard all that. But I will let D speak for himself about his transformation, and perhaps it will inspire you to take the risks you haven’t been taking. (Or at least attempt No. 7 on his checklist.)

D was writing an autobiography (he wasn’t short on ego), and he e-mailed me this excerpt two years ago:

“Hey there everybody, 
 
Just another philosophical moment and a little bit of background of who Dirty D is. You know i am not just about alcohol and falling off balconies!!!! lol!!!!!
 
Twelve months ago, yes indeed I had my heart broken again and in a similar fashion to the last time it was broken, so again I found myself climbing back into my cave to shy away from the world that I believed had wronged me. I started to point fingers and shift blame to find solace in my life but it was not working, so instead I was starting to find I was looking for sympathy to mend my broken heart rather than a solution on how I was going to go forwards in life.
 
As the end of the year began to dawn on me I started to look at life in a different light altogether I wiped the tears from my eyes and simply said never again shall I cry and feel sorry for myself and realised hey, while it doesn’t take 2 wrongs to make a right it does take two people to make a wrong in life.  I started to believe that you must accept blame for what goes wrong you can’t always be a victim. I mean how boring would that be.
 
As I did this I started gaining a confidence that I never thought I had in me, got up from my desk at work and walked out. I went home that day I studied every problem that My Company had in the last 10 years and was prepared to fix it myself believing it was a way of sorting my own issues out.
 
After collecting all the data I needed I then approached the CEO at my work telling him these are the problems I have found in my analysis this is how I believe I can fix it – Can I champion it. Several days later he called me back into the office and told me I had a promotion and also told me that the way I spoke to him that day made him at first want to fire me but then saw the work I had put in and the passion I showed that he had to have a look.
 
I named it project accelerate because sometimes in life like in business you have to go in full force to go forward even if some of the road must be traveled blindly.
 
My next step was to do everything I wanted to do in the last 5 years and said was going to but never did. I went Skydiving bungee jumping and of course traveled across the world to see sights that interested me and got chased by the bulls.
 
My life goals have changed and I have ticked off many with many more to come I mean in twelve months I ticked off the following:
 
1) Move out of home. (By the way I said this on a Monday and had moved by Thursday)
 2) Get a promotion at work or leave altogether.
 3) Go bungee jumping
 4) Go sky diving
 5)Run with the Bulls in Spain
 6)Travel on my own 
 7) Make a sex video with a random girl I pick up, with her consent of course. (GK note: D did this while traveling with us in Santorini. He was a man of his word.)
 8) Live for every moment as if it were my last
 
I could get hit by a bus tomorrow but the most important thing I would take with me as a final memory would be that I lived and gave eveything my best shot and still came out on top.
 
I have the knowledge now that even if I lose occasionally I still win cos I tried and gave it my best shot and sometimes to take a step forward in life you have to take several back.”

Bon voyage, buddy.

{ 11 comments }

1 Matrix January 22, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Sorry to hear about your friend man.
I hate to be cliche as well, but you really do have to live like your dying. Inspirational and humbling post….

2 Nate January 22, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Great job honoring him in your own way here GK. A close friend of mine was diagnosed with advanced cancer on his 18th birthday and he taught me through actions not words to be more proactive in life. We can all learn something from your friend.

Best,
Nate.

3 andy January 23, 2010 at 9:34 am

i fully agree with you nate

4 GK January 24, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Thanks a lot for your comments, guys! D the Dirty Renaissance Man would no doubt thank you, too.

5 Gabi February 8, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Hi Greg!

Thanks for sharing this with all of us. Since I found out about D this morning I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him and how crazy life is. I think he would have really appreciated all of your kind words and memories of him. He will definitely be missed. Hope all is well with you.

Gabi

6 Jen February 8, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Hey Greg,
Thanks for writing this. Like Gabi, I can’t stop thinking about D and what an impact he had on all of us in a short time. I checked my email a million times today, just to read what everyone was writing. It is sad that it took a tragedy to bring the 35 of us back together (through email at least) but it seems fitting, since D really was the link between all of us on the trip.
It has definitely made me think about what D always said about living life to the fullest… and I will never forget him!

7 Vern February 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Greg whats up buddy. Like everyone stated, I cant believe he is gone but all we can do is remember all the good times we had with him. Good to hear from you and congrats on your job. I like your blog/website

8 alex February 9, 2010 at 3:02 am

Hey Greg,
Thanks for sharing with us! Losing someone is hard enough let alone having to write about it , but you did it well! I guess this is just a way of celebrating his life! It’s amazing all the little things that people did with him on this trip that make it more even memorable! I don’t think there’s anyone on the trip that can say that they had nothing to do with him, or is there??
Australia is not that far away, make sure you visit soon,
Keep Smiling and congratulations on your achievements!
alex :)

9 Dan February 9, 2010 at 5:16 am

thanks heaps for posting this Greg. he was an awesome guy and i’m stoked i got to meet him!.

10 sabrina February 9, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I love that! D was an extremely passionate man and unfortunately from experience GOD does always take the good ones. :(
Sabrina

11 Jamee February 10, 2010 at 9:48 am

Greg, what you wrote was so amazing, and in the small time that we spent together in this lifetime, D touched my heart and mind. Had it not been for D, I would have gotten lost in Greece and not laughed or smiled as much as I did. He was an amazing person and I feel blessed to have crossed paths with him. Thanks for posting this blog!

J-

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