Nancy Reagan once described her husband's Alzheimer's as "the long goodbye." One might say the same about watching a close friend beset with demons slowly drift away. In the case of a someone I know, the demon was alcoholism. The incubus was infidelity. The devil was the other woman. Shattered lives the legacy.
I'm writing this on the day we learned that another famous actor has succumbed to his substance abuse problem. I'm not thinking about Hoffman, though. I'm thinking of a good friend.
I'm no expert on the subject but I have had a front row seat to the damage alcoholism has done to families and friendships. I've watched families lose their homes, marriages split up, and the final friendship end. So many of us swear we'll stick by until the end, not really understanding what that means.
This I know. It means a friendship and a love that will never be returned. It means hopes dashed. It means first empathy, then disbelief, anger, sorrow and an empty hole that can't be filled. It means "what if?" will be a constant companion whenever we think of a friend and brother.
Two of the most brilliant men I have ever known have wasted it all - everything - at the business side of the bar; incalculable loss of productivity, of contributions to society, of success that never happened.
It means "what could have been" will never be. Maybe hope will win out. God knows daily prayers haven't, at least not in the way we want. But in this, and in all things, thy will be done Lord.
And so, goodbye old friend. You live, you die, it was always your call. We all have the choice.
You don't have to be dead to be mourned.