Sunday, June 29, 2014

Song for a friend

I've been trying to figure out how to write this post for a week, and grappling with whether I should write one at all.  I try to keep things light around here, but when something is this heart-breaking, it warrants telling.  Saying goodbye to someone is unfathomably difficult, and in this case, it feels almost impossible.  My dear, dear friend Carl died last weekend.  It was incredibly sudden and wholly unexpected.  He was only thirty-two.  I'd known and adored him for over ten years.  I thought there would be many more ahead.  That's what we all think, isn't it?  That we have all the time in the world?  

We first met when he worked as a camp counselor for the children's theatre camp I'd attended since I was little.  Although there were seven years between us, he always treated me as a peer -- albeit one he took under his wing.  He could have very easily chosen not to keep in touch with an awkward 14-year old girl, but he always made a conscious effort to stay in my life.  In retrospect, I think Carl saw the potential in people.  He didn't put up with a lot of bullshit (which was one of the things I always liked about him), but he was the most encouraging, warm-hearted person towards those who were genuine and hard-working.  I feel honored that he deemed me worthy enough to fall into this category.   

Carl in Biloxi Blues (courtesy of KHphotographics)
He always made me feel special.  I don't know if I ever told him how much I appreciated that.  In many ways, he was the first guy who made me believe the good qualities about myself that I'd hoped to possess: that I was talented, attractive, desirable and valued.  Carl was a hybrid of mentor, older brother and former flame, and he has always held a special place in my heart.  He was there for me through every breakup (always ready with threats to kick some ass, should I ever need him to).  He was one of the few people in my life who just "got it," especially in terms of how political the theatre community can be; we both cared immensely about our craft, and we commiserated about our frustrations often.  We were often in complete agreement on our approaches to acting and how we handled the pettiness that can occur, while still seeing the good in those around us.  He was incredibly supportive of my blog, and I think he kept up with it without really telling me.  I don't remember us ever fighting with each other about anything.  There were times where we didn't connect for a while, but we always picked up right where we left off.  I'm still in denial that we won't get to catch up over coffee or finally be in a show together one day.  He had so much to live for: he was engaged to the woman he loved, had started teaching, had lots of plans for the future and thought he had ample time to figure them out.  It simply isn't fair.  I know these things never are, especially when someone dies so young and so full of promise.  But when it happens to someone you care about so deeply, it personalizes the whole thing in a way you never wanted.

A program from the summer we first met, a ticket to Hedwig and the Angry Inch (which we saw together 10 years before it became a Broadway hit), and a playbill from a show I saw three different times, just because he was in it.
Upon reading the numerous Facebook posts that reflected on his untimely passing (because that's largely how we collectively mourn as a society nowadays, for better or for worse), I realized just how supportive he was of the people he cared about.  I am lucky that he cared so much about me.  I am also incredibly thankful that I got the chance to spend time with him recently.  Of course, I'm greedy and wish I'd had more time with him, but at least I had the chance to see him last summer, and then again on our vacation to Disney World.  I'm kicking myself for not getting a photo together during one of those times.  At the time, I didn't want to bother him with it.  But now there's just the one photo of us, from when we first met, and I can't even find that at the moment.  I did, however, find a slew of cringe-worthy e-mails and AIM conversations (remember those?), playbills and ticket stubs that are all Carl-related.  I looked through my books and found the copy of Uta Hagen's Respect for Acting that he gave me after I graduated high school.  The inscription shows just how kind-hearted and supportive of a person he was.  I'm just glad I got some good hugs in the last time I saw him.  They'll have to hold me over for a while.

I suppose I have a choice in the face of this tragedy: I can either let it consume me, or I can let it motivate me.  I think Carl would want the latter for me.  Although I will always mourn the loss of my dear friend, I think it's okay for his passing to light a fire under me.  The truth of the matter is, we don't have infinite time.  Life is too short (which is a hackneyed expression at this point, but it's true).  It's too short to not pursue your dreams.  It's too short to spend with someone who doesn't make you happy.  It's too short to not do what you love.

Carl as Linus in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
I will be forever grateful to my friend for all that he did for me, and how he continues to inspire me.  I hope he knew how thankful I was for his friendship and guidance.  I hope he knew how much I loved him.  I don't know how much I believe (or how much Carl believed, for that matter) in the hereafter, but I hope I'll get to see him again someday.  Until then... I hope I can continue to make him proud.

Thank you all for listening.
xox Sammi


  1. Sounds like he touched many people's lives which is in a way a part of our human calling. It isn't fair that he died and died so young. I understand that as I lost my mother when she was just 34. But the most important thing is to remember them. Always remember. xox

  2. I am so sorry for your and those who knew him's loss. He sounds like a man who lived well and made a difference.

  3. Oh darling.

    First of all, I love what you've written here. I'm between being so, so sorry for your loss and then being inspired by what you have written and grateful that this experience has made you realize how precious life is. I'm sorry for your loss and the loss of everyone around who was touched by this seemingly amazing man. <3


  4. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. He sounds like a great guy.

  5. So sorry to hear about your loss, you have some many great memories with him. At least he had this presence in your life while he could, it is too sad when our loved ones are taken from us too young. I hope you feel better soon!

  6. So sorry to hear of your loss, time is too short. I am glad that you can remember the good times, and go on to make Carl proud of you. Hugs. x

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  7. Carl sounds like an amazing person and great friend. This post was incredibly touching.. I began to feel like I truly had a sense of him. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope you two do meet again someday. My thoughts are with you and his family xox


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