Last weekend I lost a friend. He slipped through my hands just at the last moment, at the point where things were so bad for him, they simply had to get better.
He had what I believed to be an irrepressible spirit. He was a musician, a writer, a saver of souls, and people and animals.
Although in my head I knew we were losing him, my heart could not believe he would take himself away from life completely. My heart believed that with enough love and a glimmer of hope, he would somehow miraculously wind himself up the rope he dangled from and come back to us.
Everyone always says “oh he was a good person” when someone dies. They say it automatically, even if the miserable excuse for a human being was in reality a wife-beating thug who kicked kittens every day.
But in truth, Greg was good. He was good inside and out. He was sensitive and kind and funny and not afraid to tackle things head on, normally with a slice of humour and whole lot of bitchiness towards those who deserved it.
He was my friend but he was also other people’s friends. He was a friend to so many people, from a homeless guy and his dog on the street, to old schoolfriends, to new friends and people he met on the internet. He was a friend to animals, he cared.
He cared so much. If someone had said Greg had died because his love for people and animals and life had made his heart swell up and burst, I would have believed it more.
And even in his darkest days and hours, he still cared. He was still asking how I was, and defending people on message boards and being interested in the work the group did and promoting Dan’s book and laughing (even if the laugh was a littler sadder, a little more desperate).
He was physically injured, with no recourse to medical help. In the US, you get injured or ill you had better have medical insurance and lots of it or you might as well just give up and die.
He was further injured when he fell down some steps as the result of being injured.
I’m going to catalogue those injuries here:
– Broken arm
– Shattered elbow
– Cut tendons and nerves on his right hand
– Broken ribs
– Chipped kneecap
– Face sliced open
– Multiple cuts and contusions
– Head injury
– A broken foot
When his ankle swelled up so bad it was the size of a bicep, he called his friend Dan and asked if he could call him an ambulance. They took him in and kept him ONE NIGHT. ONE FUCKING NIGHT.
They also knew that Greg:
- was having paranoid psychotic episodes and was likely to have another
- he would more than likely injure himself further or kill himself as a result of another episode.
Dan made it quite clear to the hospital that he needed to be kept in. The hospital did little more than give him a bed for the night and release him the next day. Oh and a prescription, for which he had to pay. Dan paid it.
Greg was jobless – he lost his job when he got injured. He had very little in the way of money or things after a prolonged, nasty, vicious relationship breakup.
He was about to be evicted. He advertised for a flatmate who would pay the rent but let him stay whilst he recovered. He was happy to forgo part of the deposit so that the person didn’t have to then cough up with a ridiculous amount to buy him out when he left.
There was a muted response as the world at large looked at this, considered it and people posted warnings about the fact that any tenant did not have the legal right to turf him out if he decided he wanted to stay. He was fucked.
When he came back from hospital, he was told not to move. There was no backup care. No-one official who could go into the flat for him and help him.
There were a few people who were more than willing but by that time, Greg was beyond our reach, already making a date to meet the Angel of Mercy with the pills he was going to swallow, already planning how to push a barbeque into the bathroom, seal up the vents and end his pain, forever.
I could go on about what a travesty his death is. I could rail and scream and cry and throw bricks. Because people like Greg don’t come along often. Greg would stop what he was doing to help someone. He would put someone else’s need ahead of his own, always. He wasn’t the type of person to do good in the hours he had spare, he did good all of the time.
People have asked me whether I am angry with him for killing himself. No, not at all. I am grief-stricken but not angry. I know how much pain he was in and I am glad that his suffering is over.
I am however desperately and thoroughly and completely consumed with anger at the people who should have been on hand to help him and instead turned their backs, or continued to hurt him when was falling. I hope that karma finishes a job I can’t even start. I am consumed with anger that society places so little value on love and care and instead values life-worthiness in money.
And yet … in leaving he also left us all, his true friends, with gifts.
As Katarina pointed out – he left us each other.
In the last, dark, desperate days, several of us messaged and friended each other on facebook, to stay in touch, to try and help, to co-ordinate approaches.
Each of us could sense the Angel of Mercy coming for him and each of us tried to get her to fly away, take someone else. We played music and threw books and cracked jokes and shouted and yelled to distract her. We sometimes stomped our feet and got a little cranky with each other and apologised and got up again to do it some more as she hovered above us, her terrible beauty apparent to all.
In the days since that Angel came for him, I have made more friends. Friends who only knew Greg through this or that messageboard, through Reddit, friends who have known him for years, friends whose lives had been touched by his kindness and his love.
All we have to guide us in honouring his memory is the will he wrote and posted a week or so before he killed himself. And some of those dear, lovely people who surrounded Greg in his last days with offers of help and love; who, like me, were hoping our love and care for Greg would build the handholds he needed to pull himself up, are organising a memorial on Saturday and are going to meet as many of the requests he made as possible (although the girl in latex wheeling out his urn may be a bit of a tall order).
And here we all are now, all still talking and sharing and singly and collectively howling into the empty chasm of grief his absence is causing us. The journeys Greg and I took together, whether just laughing, or trolling hate pages or doing serious stuff will remain with me forever. And I am now setting out on a new journeys of friendships, with the people who loved him truly.
|For Greg aka Chester
I know I haven’t cried all the tears yet. I keep crying but they don’t finish. I am so sorry.
I don’t really have any words left except to say thank you. Thank you for the fun – the OK cupid profile of the S&M fanatic that we all contributed to, the responses, which had us in stitches… thank you for the work you did for ABP, the lives you saved by helping to catch animal-abusing bastards.
Thank you for getting me chucked out of a major animal activist group by trolling my page with a fake protest group claiming I was using sun bear feet as slippers (they were humourless c*nts anyway and their response in the end, was so self-righteous it was hilarious). Thank you for being my friend.
Thank you for letting me help create Chester R Quattlebaum, time-travelling professor with an eye for the ladies, from a minute town in the UK with the world’s worst hotel room. Thank you for helping me when I needed help. Thank you for making me laugh so much.
Thank you for the day when you decided to become my boobs and my breasts talked to me on facebook, on every post. You had us all in stitches.
I am grateful also that you had some good friends, some of us online, but not enough of us near you, sadly.
You always tried to make the world a better place and I am so sorry it isn’t. I am sorry that someone as courageous and brave and funny and vulnerable could not remain in it. It is a complete and utter fucking travesty that people who don’t deserve their lives and who spend their time hurting others are alive and you are not.
But you know, I’m going to continue the dream you had. I’m going to continue treating people and animals like you did, and doing everything I can to reduce the evil in this world. You may not be here anymore but your spirit always will be – wherever there are assholes who target people because of their sexuality or race or nationality, wherever there are fuckwits hurting animals, wherever there needs to be a giggle instead of a tear – I strongly suspect that your spirit will be there, egging us all on to be better people, to stand up and do something to make things right.
Fly free Greg aka Chester aka Boudie’s Boobs. May the love we all have for you, lift your wings and give you peace.
(Excerpts from the) last will and testament of Greg Traylor
While you may have loved certain things about a person’s body, what you really love is what animated them and that animation is gone. Whatever you believe about their spark, their personality, their spirit, etc. – none of that is there in the casket and if we honored every vessel for what it once contained, the recycling industry would completely fall apart. Move on.
I want to my urn to be wheeled in on a cart by some babe in latex. Metallica’s “For Whom The Bells Tolls” should be blaring loudly and my urn should be ON FUCKING FIRE (further pyrotechnics optional).
Next should be a alphabetical reading of my character flaws in unison. If anyone gets out of sync, they should be glared at.
Those who know me best should come up front at this time and recount my life failures and most embarrassing moments.
Geoff Muldaur‘s Brazil should start playing while my urn should rise up reverse Deus Ex Machina style. I really want to be shot into the sun but if you can just fire my Folger’s can out of a mortar at an institution I disagree with, that will be fine.
The next 10 seconds should be spent in contemplation (at how much damage my ‘urn’ did to the McDonald’s down the street). This should be followed by drinking, streaking, reciting unacceptably filthy limericks at Poetry Slams, fist fights with the willfully ignorant and riding animals that don’t belong to you.