My best friend died the day before yesterday. He was 47 years old and had a liver transplant having been diagnosed with a rare disease Primary sclerosing cholangitis sometime around 1994-5. Forgive me if I don’t remember the exact date; he and I were classmates at the University of California in Santa Barbara studying geography at one of the best geography campus in the country. We took all the earth system science classes before climate change hit the news ways. Forrest was brilliant, acing the complicated interweaving of our planet’s physical systems. His shortcoming was computers, but everything else melded together in perfect symmetry—he’d explain things to me, we studied together. Turned out he had a crush on me. We’d lope across campus at a quick pace to cover the distance between classes. It was there, right at the bike crossing when he told me about the diagnosis: PSC, but he made me say the whole name.

I got hit by a bicycle and bruised my arm and nicked my ankle.

Forrest was hit by something much worse.

The treatment for PSC is liver transplant.

Years passed with the diagnoses locking down. Lots of drugs and hospitals all of which Forrest hated. He sickened turned yellow, actually orange, bloated, weak, was often in pain, could barely eat, yet he’d smile, he’d laugh, he’d get out the telescope to study the sky. He was a geographer to the core. He never missed listening to Car Talk or watching an episode of Jeopardy. He had a child that loved dinosaurs. He moved to North Fork to be near his son and lived his life. He got sicker, and sicker and sicker. The medical social system was cruel. He had to fight for everything and Forrest is not a fighter, he was made of love and curiosity. They make you wait when you need a liver transplant until you’re almost dead before your turn is approved for the surgery. Forrest almost died on the table, we didn’t think he’d survive but he did.

He did!!! We were overjoyed! But recovery was difficult, Forrest needed frequent aftercare treatment, he needed a lot of pills….pills he didn’t want to take. He developed severe depression.  In a man who was inherently cheerful and full of life this was a shock. It was bio-chemical but it changed Forrest. They treated the depression and it helped but he wasn’t the same, he started to worry and fret about things. He started to over-do, he was everyone’s fix it guy, especially if it was mechanical. His collection of cars were like living creatures to him–each with their own soul, their complicated history that he cherished.

He finally found love, he was missing this for a very long time…romantic love.

A few years ago I was ready to purchase the 6 acres that Forrest lived on in North Fork. We decided to share the place. I wanted land and a home, Forrest wanted to remain where he was in an aging double wide on a gorgeous parcel. He’d help me build a house and he’d pay me rent. I made the seller / landlady a good offer, she laughed at me, demanding an inflated price which she never got (her final sale years later was lower than my offer.)  Lots of bad things happened, she drove Forrest off his home, she showed us how evil lurks waiting for expression, her devilment was the death of her husband, it unleashed a raging greed. Forrest had to leave and that drove him nearly crazy, he went to live with his girlfriend but was forced to give away too many of his precious cars and other vehicles and equipment. Honestly the place was a mess; Forrest had lost his neat gene, it  dissolved with toxic accumulation of ongoing medications and treatments. The place could have been cleaned up with some help. Believe me, I know how hard it is to do everything yourself, on your own.

Forrest and me looking at property for me to buy

Then finally things started to really improve, Forrest was able to buy a plot of land with the help of his folks. Forrest could not work a traditional money earning job, nor pursue a vocation, nor utilize his brilliant mind because of the enormous cost of medical treatments…it was necessary that he remain on funded aide to pay those bills. He dreamed of doing his masters, maybe more but it didn’t happen. Getting the land was an anxiety ridden tortuous process but he preserved. The land was inexpensive as it needed extensive clean up. He toiled, he labored, he joined work parties and shared, he did everything for others in the hopes they’d do a little for him. He’s the collective, cooperative, potluck, home-grown local music and drum circle bonfires with friends type. Honest, sincere, he meditates in silence; yes, sometimes moody and sensitive. He’s a go-getter…. oh I keep forgetting to say “was” Forrest will always be alive to me.

Forrest really hears a person when they speak, he asks questions rather than dictating what another thinks, he weighs things before giving an idea and his ideas tend to be brilliant or at least in line with a persons true self. There is laughter and goodness. He pays attention and uses his brain, his shortcomings revolve on his internal processes. I’ve seen him get bogged down working himself into an endless loop with a problem that requires a solution he doesn’t like.

So once he obtained his property something wonderful happened. Forrest became Forrest again, there was ground under his feet. Something to give him pride and confidence. This happened recently; he showed me how he cleaned up the parcels…two of them together making a 5 acre spread right in the center of California in North Fork. He had everything to live for, things were smoothing out with his girl friend, the future was looking bright. The last conversation he and I will ever have, he told me that I too needed to get property, it made all the difference, it gave him happiness and he was sure it was what I needed too. Working on your own place, building what you want, what you need.

Not yesterday, but the day before he planted roses on his land, he worked hard in the sun. It’s hot in North Fork this time of year; there was a lot of hard labor to be done. He came home to take a nap, woke around 8 o’clock feeling dizzy, then he lost consciousness. His girlfriend performed CPR heroically until the medics arrived; she was there with him, she said it was a peaceful death.

There are scores of us in shock, maybe hundreds, Forrest was well loved.

He got to see the LT, he liked it. I expected him to be around to continue to read my blog, to continue to share his rants, his joys, his discoveries, to continue to listen when I felt lost, to be the one who knows all about me and who understands. His girlfriend’s home is crowded, her family have gathered ’round, friends are pouring in support. I am alone. I miss Forrest and it’s only the beginning.

Only one more thing, Forrest and I had a falling out. there was a long time when we didn’t talk every week or every other week.  It only ended recently, I was sad about it, but now I know it was practice, it gave me practice for the long haul ahead.

Yes these walls are made of Straw Bale!

In his youth

He kept that look all his life. . . it would turn into a smile 🙂

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