#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. yellingjellyfish

    this one made me cry. immediately after reading, i told my best friends how much i love them.

  2. emmeline

    Thank you for your inspiring post. Your portrayal of Chris’s humor and spirit is wonderful. I am glad that Chris had you in his life.

    Looking forward to The Book of Awesome.

    Wishing you and your family peace and happiness.

  3. Katie

    Beautiful post. I cried through most of it and was very inspired. Your friend Chris was a beautiful person and I am thankful for the joy he has brought me, even through your words. Love!

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  5. Mary

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You made me smile and cry. And Susanita, I miss you.

  6. J0hnna

    This post made me tear up. This was so sweet, and so well-said. Reading this, meant so much to me, and I know it would have meant the same to Chris. Thank you.

  7. Joshua

    Thanks for your heartfelt post. I can relate to nearly everything you said in my own reality. I lost my friend Jim 3 years ago, it feels like it was yesterday, even now.

    Time makes it seem more distant, but the loss of a true friend doesn’t ever really go away. Especially since they are so hard to find.

    You are awesome. Keep on being awesome. Here’s to Chris.

  8. Becky

    One of the reasons I chose to subscribe to your feeds was to give myself a reminder that life IS awesome. People with depression can hear it everyday and still not know how to live it. Depression sucks and most of us with it are very skilled at hiding behind a red blanket and dancing like it doesn’t hurt. Chris is incredibly lucky to have you as a friend. I say that in present tense on purpose, because he obviously will always be with you.

    I can hardly wait for “The Book of Awesome” to be my gift of the year for everyone.

    Also, I <3 my colon.

  9. Soph

    I’ve been coming to your site for months now. I usually skip over the long posts, such as this one, but for some reason, I decided to read this. It is a really beautiful story. I’m so sorry for your loss and I hope Chris is in a better place. Amazing friends are, well….. amazing! You always manage to bring a smile to my face. Thank you for pointing out the amazing small things in everyday life.

  10. Mike

    i don’t think you’ll ever really understand how important these posts are to all of us readers. they truly do help me get through some tough times. thanks neil.

  11. Erin

    i read your blog everyday and have always found it motivating, carefully crafted, and, as corny, as it sounds, loving.
    this post, while making me smile, broke my heart a little.
    during my senior year of high school, i too lost someone i care about a lot. i’ve never quite been able to move beyond it and find that this event has influenced a lot of my actions and even inactions since then. more than that, i’ve never been able to see this event in any kind of beautiful or forgiving light.
    your post and your story about chris has helped me to reflect on my own story about teddy differently and remember the version of him that i miss, not the version of him that hurts.
    i thought long and hard before writing a comment back to your entry because i wasn’t sure how to phrase things or if i even wanted to write any of it down.
    but for teddy’s sake, here it is.
    thank you for shedding a new and graceful light on everything you post.

  12. There just isn’t a website better than this one. This made me tear up, and I wish I could give you a hug just because YOU are the number one awesome thing.

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  14. that touched my heart, he sounds like one in a million and someone I would have loved to meet in my lifetime

  15. Keira

    You win, and it sounds like Chris did too.

    Rock on guys.

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  17. LauraHelen

    Thank you for the reminder… I have a few people to hug tonight.

  18. Kayte

    Wonderful post. I’ve been reading for some time now and remember reading the news about Chris.

    Reading your post made me think of a very close friend very similar to your description of Chris. Above all, now your post makes me long to be with my friends and let them know how much I really love them and how much they mean to me.

    Even right now as I’m writing I’m tearing up and missing them fiercely.

    <3

  19. Jess

    There’s an African word that I think sums up this post (and unforgettable friends) perfectly. Ubuntu. It means, “I am who I am because of who you are to me.”

  20. Sarah

    I started reading your blog in the beginning. A friend recommended it. I sorta lost touch over the last nine months when my personal struggles overcame my desire to remember the good.

    When my friend and I first started reading, we guessed that you were in our city somewhere, out there. It brought us both comfort knowing someone else too was looking for the little things, the intangibles that can make us truly content, if we can see them…

    Reading this post, I cried. I lost a sibling to suicide, then a parent nine months later. In the darkest days of my life, something was born that I’m getting back to now.

    It was only the smallest things that I was able to take joy in. They had to be small, because the big picture was tragic, chaotic and too painful. I recall at that time in my life a few years back, that a child laughing, an old person smiling, a certain smog induced orange sunset, a found letter, a moment of bliss while opening a good book, these were the only good things I could see.

    What I see now, and what occurred to me when I first started reading your blog was that these small, inconsequential things are the very essence of my joy.

    Thank you for starting this, and congrats on the book. Well deserved, and you get to spread the word :)

    Peace.

  21. pearl

    Thank you for this. I lost a friend in December. It is still raw.

  22. Kaili

    Thank you for this, It’s good to know that I am not alone… I lost an awesome unforgettable friend, probably in the same way. I think about him a lot and this article definitely made me cry, but also made me smile in the end.
    here’s to your friend chris.. and my friend noa!!

  23. This is my first post on this website and all i can say is thank you for all these useful information! If you permit, I would want to use some of your content. I write articles for article directories as my second job. I am willing to refernce your website in these articles.
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  24. SMiller

    Stumbled upon your site today and the first thing I read was your Thank You. I just lost a dear friend the same way and man, is it one hell of a painful journey. Somehow I found my way here going through this seems so rare and then I find your site and read these replies and see how too common it is. So sorry for your loss, Chris looked like one funny guy to know; tonight I am working on remembering my friend with laughter instead of tears.

    Cheers!

  25. I have been trying to go to bed for over an hour now but I can’t stop reading your story and about the tragic loss of your friend. I am so very sorry. I get your feed via RSS on my Yahoo page everyday and always smile at the headlines but had not really fully understood your plight for awesomeness until now. Congrats on all of your success so far, you deserve it.

  26. Shelby

    Neil, a teacher showed me your ted talk, and right after schol, I flipped open my laptop, popped open a diet coke( which should be on this blog) and propped my feet up on the couch, preparing for a long time reading. I am deeply sorry for your loss, and know what it’s like. In second grade, (5 years ago) I had a close friend with cancer pass away after a field day, in which, he participated in a three legged race(two people tied like a normal threelegged race pushed him down the field.) The next week we found out he had passed away. Ever since then, that school has an extra fundraiser each year that goes toward the cure for cancer. I try to donate money each year even though I’m in Houston TX not Austin TX. I hope you remember him forever.

  27. Jack Walden

    Almost twenty years ago two close friends made individual decisions to go away seven months apart.
    Even though I have lived a life filled with love, children, success and travel, I am still at a loss of understanding concerning their choices.
    I have read that this is a crime of opportunity.
    I know that they had problems that were made worse by their addictions.
    Never take your friends for granted, they impossible to replace.

  28. wendywithaurora

    I was 15 and 4 months. My best friend Shelley, was 15 and 2 weeks.
    We were so close to the mirror of innocence… she was said to have quoted, “Going to count the stars,” and she never woke up. Only Shelley knows if it was an accident.
    The way Chris is described within, they were alot like.
    I wrote a short story, children’s book, just for my family, illuminating awesome adventures Shelley and I had, with and through the eyes of our pet mice: Oscar was #1, Sniffles was #2. Oscar was said aloud in the 70’s when somebody farted, so Sniffles and Oscar were inseparable really, just like us. So I thought, when we were young. I grew up fast.
    I went on to have children and tried ot build friendships, but none came close to Shelley. How do you make the same memories…it’s impossible.
    Friends like this shine on forever in your heart and the songs of your soul.

  29. wendywithaurora

    So now I have big tears and snot dripping down my face…awesome Neil!
    Remembering unforgettably awesome friends, in my bones!
    Take care of yourselves and do take care of those awesome friends.
    So Awesome for you to have included within: the HOPE LINE…
    Shine on:)

  30. Gerlinde De Valck

    In my life I have met many people. People I looked up to, people who had hurt my feelings. But there are only a few people who stayed in my life, who were always there for me. Friends are very important to me, because they are simply a part of my life. I love having fun, I love to laugh and I think it’s important I can be myself. The fact that I can do these things with my friend makes me very happy. At this moment I know which friends are going to be unforgettable to me.

  31. hijaaaaaaaaaaaaaagaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaalll

  32. Jai

    Touched me…read about you in the Readers’ Digest. Love what you are doing. Sometimes, it’s not the bigger picture that matters on its own. The finer details are what lead to the bigger picture in the first place. Kudos! :)

  33. wendywithaurora

    follow-me-up please:)

  34. Sarakol

    I almost cried

  35. Nicole Carrie

    One of the best entries I’ve read so far. Truly inspirational and brought tears to a room full of young adults eyes. RIP to your friend and may no one take any day, thing, or moment for granted. Truly fantastic post (:

  36. Katie

    I feel very bad for u but the story was awesome !!!!

  37. Peter

    Too awesome for words…

  38. Vishal Chopra

    RIP chris……..

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  42. Blubb

    This made me cry a little. What a wonderful post.

  43. Wuhoo

    Chris sounds like a truly unforgettable friend – time shared with him must have been the best blessing of all.

  44. Rob B

    I told a really good friend yesterday how much they meant to me but afterwards I felt kind of odd like I had said something out of line or as if I had given something away that I shouldn’t have. After reading this I feel a lot better and proud that I told my friend how I feel. Some men aren’t great at hearing and sharing those kind of things but its important none the less.

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