Sunday, June 6, 2010

Only the Good Die Young

This is a picture that I took yesterday, in the middle of the worst day of my husband's life.

The call had been hysterical from my brother-in-law's phone. "Hold on, Maxie," I said, fumbling for my earpiece (I was just leaving a parking lot). "Okay, what's up, Max? Is Raffy there?"

I couldn't understand him at first. Panting, crying. It was my husband. "Is he sick?" I asked. "Did you call 911?"

"Get here now, please. I don't care what else you have now, get here, please. I think he... he might be dead."

I don't know if those were our exact words. I don't remember much. I had a long drive to Malibu in the typical traffic of a sunny Saturday in June, when so many people abandon the city to go to the beach. Convertibles. Tanned teenagers in jeeps. Rusty pickups with surfboards hanging out the back.

I had to call his mother. "Did you call 911?" she asked, still composed, not grasping the scope of the moment. Max had been in the hospital just last week and they had been so close, had had such a warm bond over soup at Jerry's. Max had always been a sick kid, had his appendix out at a very young age. Just in the last few years, his doctor had diagnosed him with a very rare condition that caused his glands to swell up suddenly and his mother had become his champion, calling the insurance company and hospital to be sure that he could have a particular shot -- $4,000, but worth every penny -- available in case he had another episode of swelling. She had been so there with him. It was so special.

"Is he at the hospital? He needs to be at the hospital, I'll meet you there."

"No, um..." I didn't know how to say what you shouldn't have to say to a mother. "Um, he uh, he thinks that he might be... he might be..."

"No! No! Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!" She called later to demand that they don't move Max. "We must be with him. They cannot move him. We need to be around him."

Here's the irony of the day: before he left our new house, my husband had dropped his iPhone into the pool and had sent me a text from his friend's phone before he went to Malibu alone with just our oldest daughter and her best friend. My husband, the most reachable person in the whole world, was without his phone.

When he reached Max, just as he was realizing that Max wasn't sleeping, Max's phone rang. It was Josh, one of Max's best friends. My husband picked up the phone, unable to really talk. Josh was the one who called 911. After the first call from Max's phone, I got another call, an accidental redial, in which I heard my husband screaming at Max; I thought that maybe Max had pulled a really horrible joke, even though that wouldn't be Max's style. But still, it made me hope that he was still alive, still living large, loving life.

Everyone battled sunny Saturday traffic to get to Max, to be together somehow, near him. It took me an hour to reach my husband, whose grief was so powerful I had nothing to say, no words or wand to take it all away.

Hours later, the coroner arrived and was flanked by two sheriffs, surrounded by Max's mom, sister, best friends, aunt and uncle. I sat on the couch, my husband outside because he just couldn't be in the beach house anymore, and I turned to look out the window. In the path was this image: a beautifully designed home, the sunny waves, and a big blue bong, right in the middle of the coffee table.

It was so like Max to just leave it out there, for all to see. I just had to remember it and save the memory.

We love you, Maxie.


  1. Erin! My heart and prayers to you and Raf. Horrifying but so amazing that Raf was there. xoxoxo

  2. Erin,
    You are a beautiful writer. I'm only so sorry that this the first piece of yours that I've ever read. I'm so so sad for you all, for us all. I only got to know Max here and there, but for a long time and through many mutual friends. He was exactly that, though, larger than life. A sweet man and will be sorely missed. It's horrible to hear of peer passing away and even more of family despair. Holding you all in warmth and light. Thank you for capturing this image and sharing it.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. My heart is with you and your family during this time. Ugh, it's so true about the good dying young. Just sucks.

  4. Erin,
    I am so deeply sorry for your family, and especially for Raf. I am praying for your family right now.