Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Heart that Quit and Changed Mine

There has continued to be a mystery surrounding Pete’s death. The whole thing is “did he or didn’t he?” In my mourning, I’ve taken to chatting it up with Pete’s old co-worker, John. In my open sitting area at my internship, John often stops in and lifts my spirits as I get to know him and occasionally sneak in conversation about my other friend. Sometimes he sits in the same seats that Pete used to sit in and I kind of think that’s Pete’s way of sending us to one another to comfort one another in his loss. Since then, I’ve learned that John is married with two children and he battles alcoholism. He was kind enough to invite me to his graduation from his AA program, the same program that Pete attended. It was to start at 5:30. I arrived at 5.

Now I don’t want to sound like some kind of time Nazi, I’m quite the opposite. Traffic is just such a beast in my neighborhood, that if I have something to attend in the afternoon, I often forego going home and just sit around and twiddle my fingers until it starts. The graduation was at the same church where I’d dropped Pete off, and the same place that I went to the chapel alone that Friday night. I looked around, hoping to find a crowd that could direct me, as there was 3 buildings and multiple entrances to pick from. Eventually I approached the only person I saw, and asked if he knew where the graduation was. He informed me that I was an hour early and that it starts at 6:30, not 5:30. I asked where the closest coffeehouse was because I had some homework to do. Long story short, the man and I started talking. His name was Todd and he was formerly a member of the program, Covenant Community. He got sober in 2009 (hope I remembered the year right) and he happened to be the house manager where Pete died.

I tried not to pump him for info, but I find that Pete was so incredible, people can’t wait to share their fond memories of him. Todd shared his last memories of Pete. He saw Pete that Saturday afternoon, where he’d attended a meeting and seemed in good spirits. He said that from there, Pete did yard work. I asked him the million dollar question. “Do you think Pete relapsed?” He said that he’d heard the whispers, and he simply didn’t believe it. He shared that Pete needed help and that he knew it and he asked for it. He said Pete stuck to it and was committed to getting it right this time. He said that in his gut, Pete was clean and sober when he took his last breath. I needed those words so much. He excused himself to talk to someone else a few moments later.

Something interesting happened as I watched Todd. I loved his interaction with the guys in the program. So many smiles and jokes. These people were genuinely happy for one another. So much love and genuine pride in what they were doing and what they’d done. I wanted to share in their joy and be a part of their process. I wanted to do that! Honestly, that was the first time in years that I’d had that feeling. As I wrap up school, and look for a job, plenty of case management jobs are available, but I detest case management. This is going to sound super elitist, but working with people that are poor and or have mental illness is draining to me, because while a lot of people want to improve their situations, many people do not. Its mind numbing to sit in front of people and churn out notes about folks that just come see you because they want money, not because they want to improve their situations. But I could completely get behind working with women with substance abuse issues.

In my alone time there, I looked up on my phone how I could go about getting certification to become a substance abuse counselor. I felt rejuvenated. I couldn’t help but to feel that Pete led me here to this exact moment. I looked up one program that required 4,000 hours of supervision. That’s 2 more years of full-time supervision. I’m just coming out of a 3 year master’s program. NEXT! I looked at a few more sites and programs that didn’t look legit. I called my dad and asked how to get this process started. Of course with him being a former drug user and a current drug abuse counselor, I knew that he’d love yet again to see his daughter follow in his footsteps. He gave me the number of friend of his that could point me in the right direction. Later I called a classmate to ask her opinion and she suggested I chat with the teacher of her Drug & Alcohol Abuse class. She said that he’s passionate about us getting certified by the time we graduate. *fingers crossed*

The program started at 6:30, but it quickly occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to stay for the whole thing. If I’d have thought about it, I would have driven home to grab my son, but I didn’t, leaving him home alone. My plan was to be there from 5:30 until 6:30, home by 7. Things starting at 6:30 put me home by 8, which was too late for my 9-year-old. With my heavy load these days, I’m still juggling to cook dinner, my homework, his homework, etc. I congratulated another coworker that was graduating, then I located John and chatted it up with his wife for a while, but eventually, I had to leave.
As I drove home on the highway, I saw signs that said that I-85 was closed because of a fire. What? Typically if there’s a vehicle fire, signs will tell you to just use caution. Being a complete city girl, I simply got off at a mid-town exit, and casually strolled on home. I checked online and saw a huge part of that part of the highway emblazoned. My first thought was “rush hour traffic is going to be a bitch for the next few weeks as the fix this.” Little did I know at the time?

Yesterday, I looked on Facebook and for some odd reason, I chose to look up videos and eventually had the idea to look for videos of Pete. It was just like the dozens of pics he had of his daughter, but then I was lucky enough to find a video of him and his daughter. A video!!! I clicked on it and tears welled up. I wanted so badly to see his face again. The video was beautiful, of him holding his infant daughter and laughing. That was the most beautiful thing I’d seen in forever. I love the word beautiful. Pete used it often. And here I was, staring at the beauty of my friend, sharing the beauty of his love for his daughter. It was like he was alive again. Sometimes there are moments where I forget he’s dead. I’ll Google him, as if I’m doing a general checkup. And the first site that pops up is his obituary. He really is dead.

While I was on Facebook, I saw an update from Pete’s sister. She thanked everyone for their outpouring of love and support. She thanked the organizations that worked with Pete, including the one I intern with. She spoke again of how loving and funny he was. Then she wrote those words again. He really did die of a heart attack. His heart stopped. It was his heart! He was sober. Thank God. He didn’t let go or give up. Pete has continued to tell me that how he died didn’t matter. I’ll never get to know for sure. But for now, I’ll stick with believing and trusting that my friend went out clean. He valued his life and his decisions and his daughter. Pete won.

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