On your wedding day…

 

Hey Kurt,

You were supposed to get married this Saturday. I was texting Elias, and he reminded me that this Saturday was the big day. Or it was supposed to be.

When you first told me you were finally engaged, I remember sitting back and day-dreaming about what this day would look like. I know you had different plans for the actual event, but this is the way I remember imagining it:

Your yard would be immaculate, full of flowers and trees, benches you made with your own hands adorning the edges of the yard. It would have been the perfect sunny day, cool and warm all at once, with shade for your guests. The rows of chairs would be filled with your loved ones: your sons, your stepdaughters, your mom, your coworkers, your best friends. I would have been sitting there on the front row in a suit with a flower on my lapel, and brimming with pride and joy for you. I’m sure I would have been crying, much like I’m crying now.

I envisioned strings, playing beautiful music and welcoming you and Elias as you walked down the aisle hand in hand, both incredible fit and trim and sharp in your suits, all your hard work at the gym having paid off. I know how you would have looked at each other, in the eyes, hand in hand, as you recited your vows, and pledged love to each other for the rest of your lives. I remember how you looked at each other.

It’s hard having you gone, my friend. Your presence just loomed so largely in my life, and so consistently, that I don’t know if I would have been able to predict it would be like without you.

Elias and I text sometimes. We remember you. We think about what you would have wanted for us, in our own ways, after you were gone. We’ve met up a few times to talk and share, but most of the conversation comes back to how we miss you. He’s healing. He’s hurting a lot, but healing. Staying busy with work and friends, planning his future as best he can. And I think all of us who miss you are much the same, in lesser degrees.

I just sit back sometimes and think about how abrupt it was that you left us. You had unfinished wood working projects, new accounts coming in at work, yard work and wedding plans and a bachelor party and a honeymoon all coming up. All the hikes you went on, all the ground you walked upon. And all those miles we traveled together, all of our road trips and long conversations. You know that section on Facebook, where it shows you all of your memories on the same calendar date over the past several years? You come up on my feed nearly every day. So many memories, Kurt! Moab and Denver and Mexico and Vegas and San Diego. Coffee catch-ups and house parties and nightclubs and lunches and hikes. It’s almost ridiculous to realize that you were not only my best friend, you were my primary support system. If someone asked me to list a next of kin or an emergency contact, I would have given your name, and you would have shown up when they called.

I miss you, my friend, but that’s easy to tell. I’m doing well enough, staying social and busy and engaged. I’ve traveled a bit lately, to Seattle and to Island Park; you and I would have texted constantly during both of those trips, and I found myself wanting to tell you things and you would have made me laugh.

Despite all that, I’ve been a little more withdrawn lately. I find myself expecting less of people, staying quiet for longer periods of time. I’ve spent more time solo, and more time quiet when I’m around others. And that’s okay, at least for now. I think it’s a pretty healthy way to process grief overall. But I know you, too. If you were here, you’d show up and you’d be worried about me.

I keep getting little snapshots of you throughout my days. The birthday party you threw me, where you made everyone there go around in a circle and tell their favorite stories about me. The going away party you had for me when I moved to Seattle and how you always gave me a place to stay when I came back to visit. How you always, always answered me and showed up anytime I needed you, like the time you helped me assemble bunk beds for my kids and the time you picked me up when my car broke down. These memories and a thousand thousand more.

God damn it, I miss you, my friend.

This Saturday, I’ll with my sons, but I know it’s going to be a tough one. It was supposed to be your day. Elias is going to ascend a mountain in your honor that day. I’m not sure how I’ll honor you yet, but I want you to know that you’ll be on my mind. I’m working on a book right now. (You were always telling me to write a book). When I finish it, if I finish it, you will very likely be the one I dedicate it to.

I’ve told you this a lot of times already, but  I just want you to know that you changed my life. I still hear your voice of reason, your laugh, your sage advice.

I help people grieve for a living, so I know it’s a process. I’m getting there. The people who mean the most take the longest to get over. And you’re gonna take a long time.

I love you, my friend. And I miss you.

Chad

Kurt10

 

 

my best friend

Sunrise.jpg

“God, Kurt, I love them so so much.”

“Careful, or you’ll make me cry.”

It is a picture perfect San Diego Saturday morning, spring 2013. I woke up in the hotel room at 5 am, unable to sleep any longer, a heavy burden on my mind. I’d gone downstairs to find a cup of coffee, book in hand, so that my best friend Kurt could continue sleeping upstairs. And within a few minutes, I got a text from him asking where I was. He got dressed, slipped on a pair of shoes, and now we were out walking the streets, the sun just coming up, golden and beautiful.

Kurt had come out here on a business trip and had invited me along. We get along famously, he and I. We had spent the long drive down singing songs, telling stories, gabbing about our families and friends. Kurt is nine years older than me, in his mid-40s, but we have been out of the closet about the same amount of time, just a few years each. Being gay after all those years of being Mormon, being married to women that we loved but weren’t capable of loving fully, hiding in plain sight hoping that no one would notice the fact that we were homosexual in a church that doesn’t welcome gay people. These shared experiences bonded us, pushed us together. A bond had formed between us months before. Not a romantic one, but a brotherly one. Kurt and I weren’t just friends, we were brothers.

“My sons, Kurt. I feel terrible. Every time I leave Salt Lake City, I miss them, of course, but I come alive, I feel at peace and open to the world. When I’m there, I love my time with my sons, but I feel broken, I feel a shell of myself. I sleep on the couch and feel trapped and awful and bitter. I just go through the motions. And I hate it because just being with my sons should be enough to make me happy. That should be all it takes.”

Kurt stops walking. I take a few steps, realize it, and turn back to face him. He has tears in his eyes and he looks so sadly serious. I step back toward him.

“You listen to me, mister. We have lived our entire lives for other people. I raised my stepdaughters and my sons. I took care of my parents and my wife. And you, you took care of your mom and sister, your wife and children. No one ever took time to care for us and so we have to learn to do that ourselves.”

Tears run down my cheeks and tears run down his.

“You know me,” Kurt says. “You know how much I love my children. And it kills me, it literally kills me to live so far away from them. We talk and we text and we video chat, but it isn’t the same until they are with me. The summers, the holidays, I count every moment I’m not with them, and I make the most of every moment they are with me. But I had to leave in order to live. I came out here, I built my business, I bought my house, and I do it. I live my life every day.”

“I know.” I look around to see if anyone sees us, two former Mormon gay dads standing on the street crying, but the streets are empty.

“Now if you have to leave, if you decide to move to Seattle or wherever, that will not make you a terrible father. It makes you a brave man. It means you have courage. It means you are teaching your sons to be bold and strong and authentic. And if you go, know that it will hurt, massively, every day. You will ache for them. Trust me, I know. But if the alternative is staying and being sad and miserable, well, that’s a decision you’ll have to weigh out. You know I have your back either way. If you have to leave, you leave. And when you are ready to come, if that happens, then you come back.”

I give Kurt a massive hug and we stand there for a minute, then we start walking. After several seconds of silence, I jab him in the bicep with a finger. “Stupid jerk, making me cry.”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure you started this.”

We are laughing as a group of three men jog by, too handsome for words, and our eyes widen. We look at each other with a ‘holy mother of God, did you see that’ look on our faces, then we both burst out laughing again.

“Which one do you want?” I nudge.

“I’m taking all three! Find your own!”

“Greedy,” I mutter.

He smiles. “You probably need it more. How long has it been now?”

I laugh. “Shut up.”

We walk a few blocks. Kurt admires the flowers and plants, like he always does. I watch the people interacting and wonder about their stories, like I always do. We both get coffees and take a seat on a small park bench.

He looks me right in the eyes. “Whatever you decide, you have incredible things in store. You’re going to write a book. You are so talented, Chad, you have no idea. You are going to write a book and you are going to change lives.”

I look down, knowing he believes it, but not sure if I do. “Maybe some day.” I whisper.

“Mark my words. And I’ll be the first in line to congratulate you.”

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This blog is dedicated to the memory of my best friend, my brother, my biggest support, Kurt Peterson, who died in a car accident yesterday afternoon. Kurt, thank you for your amazing and limitless friendship. You changed me. You made me believe in myself. And you will be with me, in my heart, for all of my days. Rest with the angels, my truest friend. I will go on being authentic like you taught me.

Kurtt