#566 Unforgettable friends

My friend Chris died last year.

He quietly suffered from mental illness for a long time but took great care to ensure everybody around him felt good, felt happy, and never worried about him. Most people didn’t know because his first concern was always how you were feeling, not him.

I spoke to Chris three or four times a week in the year leading up his passing and I could tell he was in terrible anguish sometimes, and had been for a while. I really hope and think he’s finally found relief… despite how severe a measure he had to take to find it.

I miss him all the time and think about our final phone call at 10:30 the night before he disappeared. I think about how maybe I could have changed his mind if I knew what he was thinking. I think about what I’d say differently if I had that chance again.

But I never will.

In the weeks that followed there was a massive outpouring of support and we organized an event to celebrate his life. I collected stories from friends and classmates and we read them aloud in a rented restaurant where we flashed images and laid out some of his clothes, books, and photos. There were a lot of tears and hugs as we soberly faced the massive loss.

At a loud party a few years back, Chris suddenly draped a red blanket over himself and started full-out dancing to Madonna’s Like A Prayer while everyone cheered and formed a big clapping circle around him. He gyrated his hips, pointed at the crowd, and completely sunk into a magic moment of pure, free and easy bliss while everybody watched. Somebody captured the moment on film and I keep the shiny 8 x 10 pinned above my computer at home. Every night last summer while I wrote The Book of Awesome, I looked up at him dancing and smiled.

See, Chris is a huge part of all this. Most nights on the phone he told me bluntly what he thought of the day’s post and gave ideas for more. He commented under his Mexican half-brother pseudonym San Carlos and many early posts are dotted with his thoughts. Only a few days before his death he wrote on #840 Popping Bubble Wrap “I learned on the news that bubble wrap is a fantastic insulator because of the trapped air. So, if you’re cold and have nothing else besides bubble wrap, DO NOT POP IT but wrap yourself in it.” On #839 Really good candy with your bill at a restaurant he chimed in with “And let us not forget the wholesome goodness of restaurants that serve fresh fruit at the end.” And then on #836 When you push the button for the elevator and it’s already there he simply added “Spot on!”

That was his last comment.

Chris passed away before 1000 Awesome Things won those Webby Awards last spring and got a book deal with a great gang down in New York. I wish he could have seen how far we’ve come since his first comment on the very first post. I wish he could see how far all his strong words of encouragement pushed us forward.

After submitting the first draft of the book last August, I spoke with the publisher and we agreed to chop a few gross-out entries like Picking your nose, Blowing your nose in the shower, and Your colon. We wanted to squeeze some more new content in and plus, let’s face it, not everyone’s as into snot as me.

Anyway, when I submitted the second draft a month later I sorta forgot Your colon in there, hoping nobody would notice. But they noticed all right — turns out they actually read these things — and it came back with a red circle and the polite question “Didn’t we agree to pull this one?” So again I said I’d take it out but again … I sorta forgot. And I sorta forgot on the next draft, too.

And then we talked about it and they smiled and nodded and now it’s in the book.

See, the truth is I included Your colon because it was always Chris’ favorite post. He called me the night I wrote it breathlessly giggling. “I love it,” he started. “It’s hilarious and … strangely illuminating.” In the months that followed he’d always bring it up again, too. “Nice writeup on all-you-can-eat buffets today,” he’d start “… but it’s no colon.”

When we talked about that post that night I could hear his laughs so clearly through the phone. I could see his thin eyes get thinner, his glasses slip and fog a bit, and his small body rolling back and forth as he giggled and shook his head and enjoyed a nice moment.

That’s how I still picture him today. That’s the picture that inspired an awesome thing in the book called When you hear someone’s smile over the phone.

Because listen, we all are who we are who we are. There’s people who made you, people who shaped you, and people who changed you.

When you’re lucky enough to have unforgettable friends in your life do yourself a favor and make sure they’re unforgettable. Spend time, make memories, tell them you love them, whenever you can, however you can.

Chris, thank you for your laughs, friendship, and inspiration. Thank you for being a big part of my life, a big part of this site, and a big part of this book. Your memory goes on, grows on, and lives on, because you’re so unforgettably

AWESOME!

If you know someone in need call Hopeline.

Pre-order The Book of Awesome

This post is part 4 of 1 2 3 4 5


104 Comments

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104 responses to “#566 Unforgettable friends

  1. Andy

    Totally awesome.

  2. Cinoda

    First time visiting this site. First post I read. Must be a God thing. I lost a very dear friend 2 years ago probably the same way.

    • Ari

      What’s not ‘awesome’, is you mentioning god on an awesome blog.

      • Tiffany

        Actually, it’s quite awesome. God is all around you, friend. :) If you don’t believe me, check out the power of the next lightning storm that comes your way, or the many unique kinds of laughter you hear when you and some good friends are together. God is the definition of awesome. I’m praying you see the truth in that. :)

        Also, I’m pretty sure it’s a God thing that I randomly saw this.

  3. Cate

    Amid so many humorous posts, this serious post is even more meaningful. Well done. I’m inspired.

  4. Simone

    chris is truly awesome :)

  5. Cary

    Friends have really been the best part of my life. They have helped me through some rough rough times, and I’m proud to say a good dozen of them have seen me in a terrible, slobby, blubbering state and didn’t even flinch. They just hugged me, or talked to me for hours, or just gave me the laugh I needed. I am so thankful for the friends I have in my life.

    While I must say that I wish this post was closer to the top 10, it’s definitely a post that I knew was coming and I couldn’t wait to read it. Thanks for this, Neil. Thanks for everything. While it’s great to read about finding something lost or really really tall people (like me!), these deeply meaningful posts with some mixed in soul and emotion are what really brings this site together.

    Neil. I can’t say it enough. You’re

    AWESOME!

  6. I have been following your site for some time now and I love it. I have truly enjoyed each and every one of your awesome things.

    This post touched me. After reading this post, I couldn’t figure out how your friend passed away until I saw your link to Hopeline. It’s when I realized that I lost my brother the same way you lost your friend Chris. Reading your post made me think of all the good times I had with my brother until he died at the age of 26. My brother always made sure that everyone had a good time and took care of everyone before worrying about himself.

    I am truly sorry for your loss. Losing someone this way is the hardest thing anyone will have to go through with all the unanswered questions. It’s tough to see someone leave who made such an impact on other people’s lives and they just did not know it.

    Although your post brought tears to my eyes, it also brought a smile on my face to read you honour your friend who made such a huge impact on your life.

  7. Allison

    I owe my sanity, quite literally, to my amazing friends. They saved me in every way possible. I won’t forget a single one of these fantastic people. I love them. And it feels great to feel great again.

    • Melissa

      I’ve been on the other side of this, saving the sanity of an amazing friend of mine. Thank you for trusting your friends. :)

  8. Joel

    I’ve got a friend who sounds a bit like Chris. I think she is totally awesome, she doesn’t. She has told me a few times how she always thinks about ending her suffering. I talk to her and offer warmth and compassion but always I just get pushed away.

    It is saddening to know that there are many awesome people out there who just don’t see it in themselves.

  9. Another touching entry. I bet wherever he is right now, he’s looking down admiring how awesome his favorite friend is.

    I haven’t gone through such loss yet, but I treasure all the moments I share with all the people that I know.

  10. Avi

    Ken Joseph, I wish we could still talk with you. You were a great teacher and a good friend, not much more has to be said.
    Neil I’m glad you left colons in the book, because it’s not just stuff like ice cream, babies and bubbles that’s awesome; gross stuff can be awesome too, like grass stains, gasoline, dirt, babies, and sneezing. And if so it can’t be just the happy moments that are awesome, it must be the sad and sorrowful ones too.

  11. Shirley

    Even though I don’t know Chris, I miss him already.

  12. Yael

    Neil, I don’t know but sometimes what you say hits home harder than I expected. This post is one of those times…
    …thanks for putting all this down.

  13. Beth

    I didn’t know your friend, but this entry made me bawl.

  14. Emmy

    I am with Beth. I am at work and I cried some. This was beautifully written.

    And unforgettable friends are absolutely one of the most awesome things about life.

  15. Your blog is truly a treasure that brings a smile to my face. Thank you.

  16. Chris, we never actually met, but Neil has long told me that you’re an unforgettable friend. That is an exclusive club where entry is hard to earn. That’s how I know you’re in a better place where the same credentials are required.

  17. Tim

    Touched once again!
    Thx!

  18. aww this is beautiful!

    Carmel x

  19. Beautifully written. I feel a great need to call my most awesome friend today. Thank you.

  20. Jay Pee

    Well put Neil. Chris is awesome and for all of the wonderful ways he’s impacted your life we’re thankful for his friendship. Sometimes mortality can seem so definitive when really each life is a perpetual reflection of those who have touched it. I think there’s now a little Chris in all of us….maybe in our colons…his fave!

    Welcome Chris! Great to have you!

  21. Lu

    Your posts about Chris are absolutely the best. You obviously loved him very much and I’m sure he knows it. I’m glad they’re letting you keep the colon in there, it’s a perfect tribute.

  22. KathyRL

    I don’t think I’ve ever read anything as important as this blog. None of the world’s great literature seems nearly as momentous as your thoughts on the many awesome small things that comprise life. You change lives with these daily posts of wit and true wisdom. My life is better for reading them. Write on…

    • KathyRL

      P.S. I’m crying from this post as I have to all of the posts about your life this week. I will call an awesome friend today and let her know how awesome she is.

  23. Matt

    This is my favourite post yet. It is a great reminder about how we need to really appreciate those special people in our lives every chance we can get.
    Thank you.

  24. Jessica

    This is such a beautiful post. Thank you for help you for helping us not to forget these people, these amazing people.

  25. kate

    thank you so much for this. this site is such a highlight of my day, reminding me in my own hectic and sometimes mentally unstable life to take pleasure, even for just the time it takes to read a post, in the small things that make life a little more wonderful. but today, i needed to respond and thank you more blatantly than just being a frequent reader.

    tomorrow i will have to bury an unforgettable friend, one i spent ten years and a million memories with but (as it often happens with the craziness of high school ending and college beginning) fell out of touch with in the past few years outside of a few short conversations or run ins around our hometown. britney was in haiti on a mission trip when the earthquake struck, and after over a month of hope and agony, her body was found on valentine’s day. it is still unfathomable to me that the girl with whom i shared birthdays and secret santas, sleepovers and dances to the spice girls and tears over silly breakups is gone, without the chance to live out her dreams or have the marriage we’d always dreamed about. she is gone without the chance for me to tell her just how much our friendship meant to me in those formative years and even now. despite whatever toll the years and silly drama may have taken on our friendship, britney was bold and beautiful and absolutely unforgettable. and in her passing, i am reminded constantly to not only appreciate the friends i have, but the friends i have lost; not only the larger blessings of my life, but all the little bits of awesome, too.

    to be saying goodbye to an unforgettable friend at nineteen years old is still impossibly surreal. but i thank you, for reminding me to focus on all the awesome. i needed that today. may britney & chris be dancing together in heaven…. :)

  26. girlonthepark

    Been reading for a while but this is my first time commenting.
    This post made me tear up. Chris sounds like an awesome guy and I am sorry to hear that he left the world too soon.
    Anyway, love the site and happy to hear Colon is staying in the book. Sometimes, the best things in life are the tiny victories.
    Cheers,
    J

  27. Sam

    after reading this entry, the first thing that came to my mind was, “i wish i could’ve been around to maybe stop this tragic loss”
    loss is tough, there is no doubt about it, but luckily it’s amazing that people like neil are able, through tear-stained eyes, to remember such an unforgettable person so gracefully

    by the way, the pictures were the perfect addition to the story. i laughed when i pictured him dancing around the room to that song, and laughed again when you “sorta forgot” about the colon entry

    neil, stay as awesome as you are :)

  28. stephanie

    this is a beautiful post, it brought tears to my eyes! i’m sorry about your friend, it sounds like he was an AWESOME person.

  29. Aryeh

    This is heart breaking. Thank you for writing this.

  30. steph

    Your posts have been a bit heavier lately…. yet at the same time, Awesome.

  31. Jennifer

    My sister put me on to your site at Christmas I look forward to checking it each day; it always gives me a reason to smile. Today gave me a reason to tear – thank you! Just an AWESOME post.

  32. Mar

    A great and touching tribute to your friend. Glad the Your colon made the book. Thanks for the post.

  33. JBL

    This touched me. What a beautiful read.

  34. What a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing that with us!

  35. Freddo

    Another great post, Neil. I remember first hearing the news about Chris here on this blog (after hearing stories about him, and seeing him in all the pictures from your road trip), and was really touched by that post. It happened within days of my grandfather passing away, so there was a flood of emotions all around.

    This post brought some of that back, but in a more positive way this time, remembering the best of those times, and in the people all around us.

    Keep it up.

  36. Olivia

    This made everything about my day better. Remembering friends who are gone on days like these are never easy – focus goes onto the dark parts of what the day represents – but because of your post I was able to focus on my friend, her awesomeness and nothing else.

    Thank you.

    You make my days more livable.

  37. TT

    What an amazing and thoughtful post. Perspective is something so easily lost for me, and it’s wonderful to find a place that can bring it back.

    To friends past, friends now, and friends to be met. Thanks for everything.

  38. Tubbo & Dubba Tubba

    Nice, man.

  39. jdurley

    I’m so sorry you lost your great friend Chris. I really wish he was still here with us and that I could have known him.

    Today after I read this post, I was listening to some music, and heard the line “There must be a way to lay down some words under someone who’s falling.” (Claire Jenkins) and I thought maybe this post did that for someone. That’d be pretty awesome.

  40. Ryan Buell

    As Chris said, “spot on…” You brought back a lot of memories with this post. Thanks for that!

  41. Great post. Sorry about Chris. But it’s cool that, in an abstracted way, he just caused me to learn of the veggie known as romanesco.

  42. olivia squared

    #1 awesome thing: neil

  43. Anne

    As someone who has attempted suicide more than once, I was touched by this post. I am, fortunately, in a much better place than I was then, and it’s hard for me to even think about what life must have been like for those around me at the time. All I know is that I am so grateful there were people who cared about me and stuck by my side; I’m sure Chris felt the same way about you.

    Thank you for sharing his story.

  44. Is it possible to have a better website?

    No, no its not.

  45. a.

    This post, along with the other recent ones about your mom and so on, almost made me cry. I’m so sorry for your loss. Chris seems like he was a great person.

    This blog is wonderful. It never fails to restore my faith in life. Reading it always reminds me that despite all our setbacks and sad moments, life is still full of awesome things and awesome people. Thank you!

  46. Beatrice

    You are honestly my hero.

  47. Crystal

    The way you refocus what could be so negative into such positive thoughts, is absolutely AWESOME.
    I enjoy reading your blog immensely. Please keep it up.

  48. Melissa

    Truly unforgettable friends are a rare commodity in this world. I am lucky to have more than one. I treasure them the way you treasure your friends and I am so glad to see this awesome thing. Minutes after I read it my friend sent me the link in an IM before leaving for a couple days. She always makes me smile, as do you.

  49. panda

    thank you so much for posting this today. i had a really rough day and had to face either a pity-party-for-one, or standing tall, learning, and moving on. this post was exactly what i needed to end my day on.

    you rock.

  50. R.L.K. Bodoni

    Thank you for this lovely post, Neil — what a wonderful, thoughtful way to capture Chris’ spirit and honor his memory. Reading it almost brings him back for me, even if only in my mind.

    All your posts this week have been truly inspiring. I’ve pre-ordered my copy of the book and am looking forward to more awesomethings from you!

    Many thanks.

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