Dealing with loss

The last few days have been some of the toughest I have had to endure.  I found out Monday that I lost a longtime friend, someone who my family considered one of their own.  As if losing someone isn’t bad enough itself, he took his own life.  

I have struggled mightily with this reality for nearly three days now.  In my adult life, this is the first time I have lost someone who I would consider myself close with (not saying that any death is more or less significant than any other).  I am struggling to even write this post right now, due to both the sensitive subject, and how difficult it is to put these complex emotions into words.  

Allen was a guy that many… many people loved.  He worked as part of the Big Dawgs family practically as long as my family has been hanging around it (I believe somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 or 10 years).  He was funny as hell, and while he didn’t show the soft side all that often, I was lucky enough to see it, and that’s my favorite memory with him (more on that later).  He worked hard, and partied harder (and he was damn good at both).  He cared deeply for the people closest to him.  I knew that every time he told me to “eat a bag of dicks, bitch” … he meant it as a term of endearment.  Allen could go back and forth with the best of ’em.  

I have many memories with Allen, but two that stand out from the rest.

When I came back from South Africa, I started to bartend at Big Dawgs to make some money while I tried to either find a “science job” or get into grad school somewhere.  I was excited about bartending, and jumped right into it.  One of my first days on the job, Allen was off and came in to have a couple drinks.  He gave me a shug (combo of a handshake and a hug) then looked straight at me and said “Matt, I love ya and I’m happy that you’re a part of this family with us… But don’t you get stuck in this shit forever”.  He told me that I had better stay on track and use this job as nothing more than a placeholder until I got something I really wanted.  Throughout the next year and a half I would have many times where I doubted whether or not I would get my break, I always thought of what he told me that night, it helped me keep my hope.

The second memory I am going to share came the night of my surprise going away party before I left to England this past August.  There were so many people at this party, the bar was packed, and Allen was amongst the people who came.  We hung out for much of the night, talking and joking around.  There was one point however, where he got emotional with me.  He and I were away from the bulk of the crowd (honestly it was because we needed more Fireball) and he looked at me and said “Brother I’m so proud of you man, you go over there and kick ass dude”.  This conversation went back and forth for a few minutes, in the middle of which Allen started to tear up.  It was the only time I ever saw that kind of emotion out of him.  Being behind the bar as often as he was, it was usually jokes that came out, but this time it was raw emotion.  

Those memories I will keep with me, and will continue to drive me, as long as I live.

I hope that people remember Allen for all of the good times they had with him, all of the laughs, all of the jokes, all of the witty banter.  Losing him will stick with everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him forever, but with time we will learn to live with this loss, and keep his memory with us always.  We can take solace in knowing that whatever was plaguing him so badly to drive him to this, it isn’t plaguing him anymore, he’s free.

To Allen:  I’ll miss you brother, I’ll keep you with me always and try to do you proud!

To everyone who has been impacted by losing him: remember the good times, keep him safe in your heart always.Image

DeeDee, Deena, Allen, and myself on the night of my going away party.

Rest easy brother.



About mdnichol87

Marine Biologist studying towards a Master's in Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter.
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