Thoughts on Life and Death
When I was 25, my first close friend died. I was newly married, didn’t yet know I was pregnant (but would soon find out) and living without status beyond a visitor’s visa in Canada, thousands of miles from any friends of family.
I had moved to the city some months before and, knowing no one, I reached out to my “extended family” of gamers. The person I connected with was Nigel Findley, another game industry freelancer who had made his bones and was considered quite the name to us in the business at the time. He adorably agreed to meet me for coffee (“I’ll wear my Shadow Run jacket so we don’t need to resort to any ‘I’ll be the one with the rose between my teeth nonsense’.”) and through him I was introduced to his extended family of gamers and the writers’ group that met near his home.
Aside from his girlfriend, I was the last person to see Nigel before he died. We’d been out, two couples, and they’d dropped us off with promises to get together for more such nights soon. Nigel suffered a massive heart attack the next morning while brushing his goddamn teeth. He was 35.
I’d never suffered such a loss before. I shamelessly called his house repeatedly, just to listen to his voice on the answering machine, after I got the news.
Shortly after his death, I learned about a Wraith story he’d written not long before. White Wolf, a company I contributed to founding, was riding high as tabletop industry big shots, and they’d started a fiction line with Stewart Wieck as editor. Nigel’s Wraith story appeared in the collection Death & Damnation.
For those of us who saw the story only after his death, it was a little spooky. It was clearly the most personal story he’d written, littered with a few more biographical elements than normal. The fact that it was a first-person account of a man who had recently died made it all the more unsettling. Reading the words of your recently, unexpectedly, deceased friend is even more unsettling when the text reads: “It’s not fair. It’s just not fucking fair. I’m 35 – thirty-fucking-five years old. Young. Too young for this shit. My father pushed himself as hard as I push myself – harder maybe. He didn’t have to slow down until he had his first heart attack at 55. If the world was fair, I’d have another 20 years of hard charging before I had to back off the throttle.”
I have a number of reasons for pondering this tonight. Last year was both amazing and a shit show, a true emotional roller coaster spiked with moments of glory and achievement but peppered with irreversible loss, grief, and sorrow. So far this year looks like it may be following the same path.
Love freely and with abandon, my dears. Support what you believe in the most, strive to create something…anything…that will outlive you, be there for each other and try, try, try. There’s not much else that matters.