Two million coconuts a month are exported from a small island in Thailand Kari and I visited back in 2001. The island smelled like a 1970’s ad for Banana Boat tanning oil. The locals were golden, the vacation was golden, and the company was golden – may the “Great Eight” reunite soon! Kari and I went on many excursions while we visited this beach paradise. One of those excursions involved a hike into the jungle to enjoy the scenery offered by the surroundings. On the way to the trailhead, our hair waving in the wind as we rode mopeds sans a helmet – nothing bad could possible happen while on vacation, right? – we spotted a few monkeys swinging from the trees.
As we approached the trailhead on our mopeds, we noticed several signs warning tourists not to feed the monkeys, as it would upset the natural order. The long-tailed macaques feast on fruits, seeds, and a variety of opportunistic food sources – including cheeky tourists throwing Pringles their way. I looked up into the trees and I saw these relatively small monkeys jump limb from limb using their tail as a shaggy counterbalance to make sure they remain in the trees. It was amazing to see. The entire scene – the Banana Boat coconut aroma, surrounded by a jungle older than Jesus, monkeys jumping in the canopy above me, all while holding the hand of my bride – created a perfect moment. A moment I often recall with a smile!
That day, I never did see a monkey fall from a tree. But I have witnessed a monkey fall from a tree. Six years ago on a Tuesday in the late afternoon, Rick Reed fell from his tree. This day has hung heavy in my life ever since.
Hollywood does not accurately capture the last moments of a human being clinging to life. It’s not tranquil, spiritual, profound, or any other bullshit we sell ourselves. It’s ugly. It’s slow. It’s painful. It’s unavoidable. It’s tragic. Six years later, I still wake up more times than I care to admit from the sounds of my friend trying to breath.
Life does not play fair despite the belief that it does. Rick Reed was taken far too soon. He was a good man that lived his life in a beautiful struggle for so many to see. I miss Rick and have thought lately about our last two weeks together.
I regret passing up a meal with Rick shortly before he went to the hospital for the last time.
I am joyful to know I kept the pad of paper he scribbled on to communicate at the hospital.
I regret packing up his apartment and throwing away his belongings before he died. Oh, I lament this. And all under the guise of when he gets out of the hospital he wouldn’t be able to live on his own. Really?
I am joyful to know Rick Reed owned the movie Legally Blonde on DVD and a pantry full of Japanese food.
I regret the last day I saw Rick Reed because he couldn’t write what his eyes so clearly communicated – fear of the unknown.
I am joyful to have held his hand and to have been with him when he died.
The struggle of the regrets and the joys is something I know Rick would have loved to help me through. Oh, the ironic tragedy.