When my best friend died, so did my North Star.
Since incurable cancer claimed him last September, I’ve been feeling my way around in the dark, quite lost. Ours was the longest friendship of my adult life. We met in the mid-90s in England and had been like two peas in a pod ever since. At one point, we lived together, we even worked together, and our families became interchangeable.
No matter where I was in the world, Anthony was always by my side, only an email or a phone call away. He saved my life countless times by remote with his no-nonsense, hyper-rational pep talks, walking me back from the brink.
His was the one voice that always cut through the noise, the one voice that could show me the way back home to myself.
He was my shepherd, a loving, non-judgmental constant presence who always sought to better understand how we humans work.
A philosophy and science devotee, Anthony was curious to a fault with an open mind always ready and willing to accommodate the unknown. His commitment to being a better human was steadfast, lifelong, and fraught with setbacks like addiction. For he wasn’t perfect but he possessed the intelligence and honesty to acknowledge his mistakes, discuss them openly, and move on.
His sudden and untimely departure upended many lives around the world, from England to India via Poland, Portugal, France, the US, and Sweden. For to know Anthony was to love him, and he was always unfailingly generous with his time, advice, and moral support.
As for me, his death ripped a gaping hole through my heart and mind.
There will always be a part of me missing.
Anthony’s imprint on my life is indelible. His love, friendship, and selflessness helped shape and nourish the person I am today.
Our loved ones make us into who we are, informing our interactions with the world, spurring us on, and inspiring us to always do better.
A true friend will always be your number one cheerleader. No matter how many times you fall flat on your face, they’ll help you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. To go through life without knowing such a deep bond is something I cannot even contemplate or comprehend, but it happens.
And it is where I’m at now, still, incapable of processing Anthony’s omnipresent absence or figure out how to keep going without him.
There is no blueprint for dealing with grief, we all move through it at our own pace. Sometimes, it even becomes a permanent fixture of our mental landscape. It did with my grandmother after my grandfather died, it did with my cousin when she lost her father at a young age…
Although Anthony is gone, he remains by my side. I keep catching glimpses of him in things I read for example, in certain people, and I will always think of him whenever I get on a ferry to the city. I used to send him pictures every time, to give him an incentive to come and visit me in the Pacific Northwest when he was more stable.
While his death is easy to explain on an intellectual level, my heart won’t acknowledge it.
Can you still love someone who no longer exists?
Can you converse with ghosts, quietly, within the confines of your cranium? I have so much to tell him.
Some days, grief has all the hallmarks of insanity.
It punches me in the gut and steals my breath and makes me double up in pain. But because I’ve been trying to help my parents navigate the ever-changing reality of my stepmom’s Stage IV cancer, I yet have to take stock of Anthony’s death and allow myself to grieve properly.
Although Anthony is on my mind all the time (he gifted me my annual Medium subscription and told me to write my heart out), I’ve hardly shed a tear but I’ve missed him every single day since he died.
I’m surprised I haven’t collapsed yet or let major depressive disorder wash over me again. Ironically, the person who’d have been holding my hand through the ordeal my family is currently facing was Anthony. Although I started out on my own, fellow humans eventually appeared and offered me their hand to hold.
I am lucky — and blessed — beyond belief.
If life were a bike, Anthony’s death means the training wheels have come off and I must try to make my way into the world while remaining upright.
To have known unconditional love of such magnitude and strength is a gift I’m honored to have received at least once in my lifetime. What’s more, it taught me that love is a limitless resource that thrives best when given freely without expecting anything in return.
This is how, through his teachings, Anthony lives on in everyone whose life he touched.
I hope to make him proud, someday.
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.