Checking Out Early – A Beautiful Father

Shaun was another nurse too used to the medicines he was taking, though he had no prescription. I first met him while he was dating my sister in high school. He was always the most hansom guy in the room, winning the attention of women old and young. He charmed everyone easily – he was your best friend from 5th grade and the suavest guy you’d ever met at the same time. He could have been a James Dean himself, except for an angelic cast to his face.

Of course his beauty and easy way masked a struggle with a single, alcoholic Mom. Drinking was never far from Shaun’s life. He must have been very good at keeping secrets from himself and others. Though I drank and did drugs with him often, he succeeded in hiding the primary role it played in his life from everyone.

When he died Shaun left two beautiful, well loved children behind. The other morning I awoke to find a new set of family photos uploaded to the memorial website friends had put together for him. As a new father I immediately recognize the joy on his face in the photos with his children. Only a few photos betray what might be an inner conflict that would lead him to choose the escape drugs offer over his family life. These exceptions are surrounded by dozens of photos with family and love at the fore. His sons face looks especially bright, so proud to have his fathers love and attention.

During and after high school Shaun and I both worked at the same community playhouse in Utah. It was that same play where I met Michaela, where Shaun and I performed together. He later became the business manager for the theater with a million dollar yearly budget. As usual his charm lubricated our work environment and added joy to every play and party we experienced together. He was one of those people who was lovable despite their charm and good looks. I don’t think he ever got to feel how appreciated he was by his friends.

After earning his nursing degree he went on to become an anesthesiologist, all the while struggling with drugs and alcohol. It eventually lead to his divorce. He was still Mr. Mom through it all – his wife was the achiever in the world, he the nurturer. He was late to pick up the kids from school when he overdosed on drugs he lifted from his job.

The anti-life force had made a, silent drive by killing. It could have happened at any moment over the last twenty years for Shaun, why now when he had two kids? Such an epic event in his childrens lives shouldn’t have been so quiet and insipid. How can those kids avoid walking through life with a giant pit appearing forever in their path?

Shaun was the one death that felt the most like me dying. We really didn’t have so much in common when you stepped back and looked at our lives, but still, I identified with him. Maybe it was working together, or maybe I wanted to be more like him. It could have been me laying on his apartment floor, alone and surrounded by empty anesthesia inhalers.

This force is always touching our collective heart, whether or not we show up to feel it. We are all kin in this battle.
previous post: “My Wild Irish Mom” ~ next chapter: “Tomorrows”

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