Good morning Friend :)
Another Friday down! then...in 7 more days, we'll have it again! :)
This past Tuesday was the 5 year anniversary of a good friend of mine whom died in combat. His name was Chris Pike. To me, Chris was that friend of mine that made my parents uncomfortable. He was brilliant but wild as hell.... then mix those two words, he was brilliantly-wild. I think that is what made my parents so uncomfortable. The kind of uncomfort good parents have when their kids are straight laced and good as well.
Chris wasn't a bad guy at all, his life beat to a different drum.. and that damn smile of his just pulled you in. I remember on more than a few occasions people asking if he and I were brothers. We became good friends late in high school and were even tighter afterwards. As we discovered ourselves that first year out of high school we all entertained joining the Navy... since I loved to draw and had wanted to all my life, I leaned more to college. Ultimately everyone joined my college... Including Chris. However, that was short lived for him and just months later, the rest of my group dropped out. Thereafter, they all joined the Navy. That was the last time I really talked to Chris or that group of friends.
Fast forward 13 years later, I got bombarded one evening by friends asking if I had heard about Chris... which I hadn't so I looked further. Sadly, it was that he had been killed in combat. Days after many of us attended his funeral. I didn't go to my high school reunion... but Chris's funeral might as well have been. I was so happy to see so many people come out to give their respects.
Knowing where Chris was headed in life and then to hear what he had become was astonishing.. truly astonishing. Chris had become part of the Naval Special Forces Unit where he provided front line intelligence to the Navy SEAL Teams. He was smart enough and had just enough wild child and perseverance to serve with the SEAL Teams, ultimately dying being apart of SEAL Team 5.. Brilliant + Wild... this couldn't have been a better fit for him. I was overwhelmed with so much pride for him.... absolute unconditional pride. Knowing where he was headed, to then give his life in a way we watch on TV or rarely hear about... The eulogy Chris's commanding officer gave moved many to tears. For me.. I was shook up for almost 3 days after.. I was proud beyond measure to have known this friend.
In his life, Chris taught me to step outside my comfort zone.. .sometimes way outside my comfort zone. I've done things that as an adult I would hope like hell our boys do NOT do... but I don't regret one bit of it either. :) He introduced me to music I had never heard.. he showed me how to be ok not being the best at something, but saying hell with it and trying anyway. He truly made me more of who I always was, but just did so on a wilder path.
In his death, Chris taught me to never give up and to step way outside my comfort zone. In his death he taught me to not complain, press on, and to face my fears. Most importantly he also exposed me to how short life is... Call it unplanned timing in my life, universally meant to be.. I don't know. But Chris was the first person I had known on a real basis who had died. He died in a way that meant so much to me as a person. I was so, so damn proud of him.
Chris's life and death forever changed my life. Leaving his funeral with the bag pipes playing, the flag on his coffin, his life before in my head, his life after in my heart... I was changed. I promised myself to live like it was my last day, love like it was my last day and give like it was my last day.
As with any growing person, the longer we live the more of these funerals we have to attend. :( For me, I'm happy to say that upon leaving these celebrations of life I am still grounded to the way I was when I left Chris's celebration of life. It's wrong to say that the passing of someone is a good thing.. no, never. Maybe the place in my heart, the time of my life was the good thing.. I don't know... but the guy I am today, I am unequivocally a better person because of him.
A close friend of mine lost her son to similar circumstances and she said "Live a life worthy of their sacrifice"... Although I didn't have words for it then, today however, I "Pursue a life worthy of his sacrifice" and others like him...
This motto of life is not just for our soldiers or police officers... this can be for everyone whom we've lost. I miss my Grammpa like hell! talking about him can bring me to tears... BUT! it is the life he lived... the one WE lived together... all for which I am grateful for... that is where my emotion comes from... but also my strength. For me at least, those whom are not here, my life, what I do, how I teach my boys, how I take care of myself and family, and others... my life is in honor of those whom are not here to do that themselves. My buddy Chris was my tipping point.
Chris sits behind me above the army of cars we both loved so much... long before his passing, I had this car wall and my Camaro hood beside it. Having his picture just above the cars from our favorite childhood movie, adjacent to the Camaro he and I both owned... for me, this is where I can find him.
There was a time where I had to go to a very, unimaginably uncomfortable walk through with a client.. one that kept me up at night, one that I hated to go to. Contentious and explosive is short of the description... as silly as this sounds... In a flash Chris came to mind... he had to go into battle... there was a possibility that he might not come back.. This... this silly little walk through was not going to kill me... and it grounded me in a way that I needed it.
Knowing what Chris's life was and how he died allows me to find inner strength in my day-to-day. I would like to hope that I would have the resilience to have been a Navy SEAL, or just hang with them. I would like to hope that I could have the selfless leadership to put myself in the line of fire for someone else. Although I do not believe I had the correct kind of empathy to do what he did as a Navy SEAL... I can still emulate his efforts of discipline, fortitude, never quit attitude, serve selflessly without expectation or applause and live every day as it's your last, all while still being playfully vulnerable, compassionate, and loving as Ellen Degeneres would be as I help our people. :)
Today and everyday I go to work, I wear a Navy SEAL pin on my shirt... anytime I have a button polo or wear a button up, I'm wearing this pin. Much like the cartoon of the good angel and bad devil of how we make decisions.... for me... this pin, it's the good angel.. a good angel with the right amount of wild in it... it sits just above my heart... silently encouraging me to be me.
RIP good buddy.