October 4, 2014

Wayne’s Legacy

Ten years ago today, my dear friend Wayne died. Wayne was young (just shy of 43) and danced with cancer for thirteen months before his death. The ending was difficult and sad. Wayne’s contribution to my life is anything but. He has changed me for the better in so many ways.

I’ve blogged about Wayne before. Here and here.

On this anniversary, it only seems right to reflect on Wayne and his legacy in my life. He touched many people, but this is my personal account. These are the ways that Wayne is still in and still touching my life.

My writing career. Back in 2003 after Wayne was diagnosed with brain cancer, I found myself feeling very vulnerable. Wayne was the happiest and healthiest person I knew. If he could get cancer, anyone could. I found myself turning back to fiction after a very long absence and channeling those feelings into my writing. I actually finished and submitted my first short story (“Tiresias 1, Tiresias 2”–this one is very personal and unpublished). I also outlined and started another story called “The Turning Test Will be Televised.” This story too, is very close to my heart, and in many ways communicates clearly what I am up to as a writer and what kind of topics I tend to take on. It was this story that I went back to and finished in late 2008 when I started writing seriously.

My third novel, To Be A Fool, draws on what I experienced with Wayne in hospice, and my first novel Shuffled Off wouldn’t be without what I learned with Wayne at the end.

Literally that I write, and what I write is because of Wayne.

My love of Bruce Springsteen music. Wayne and Bruce are from the same town, Freehold , New Jersey. So as you might imagine, Bruce was often played at Wayne’s house, and was, of course, played at his memorial. I went with Wayne to see Springsteen on the “Ghost of Tom Joad” Tour (just the Boss and a guitar, it was a holy event for him).  To this day, I buy Bruce’s new albums and listen to them. Partially because I want to represent Wayne and his love for the man, partially because the music has gotten under my skin so deeply. And, interestingly enough, I listen to Springsteen a lot more since Wayne died. I feel closer to Wayne when I listen to Bruce.

FS_Logo2_WhiteBG_smallFurther Shore. For those of you that don’t know, Further Shore is the little non-profit my wife, Aleia, formed after Wayne’s death. She, you see, is an amazing human being. She gave up her massage practice to care of Wayne for thirteen months and then after he passed, she took all that she learned and started helping others. She goes into the most difficult of circumstances and does the most amazing things. She helps those that are ill, those that are dying, those that are overwhelmed and need of her unique expertise. She took the most difficult of losses and turned it into a way to help others.

Wayne was Further Shore’s first client (before there was a Further Shore). Without Wayne, there wouldn’t be a Further Shore or the amazing work the organization does.

house_frontWayne’s House. After Wayne passed, my wife and I and our friend Peter bought Wayne’s house from his father.  It is used to this day by Further Shore as a retreat house. We still call it “Wayne’s House.”  It’s a wonderfully peaceful place where people can come and safely learn about some very difficult things.

Whenever I go there, I say hi to Wayne. Not because I think he’s there, but because that house is so much him, that I can’t help but be flooded by memories when I’m there.

My Wife. Aleia moved out here with Wayne in 1989 and they were a couple. I met her in 1990, and the three of us began an interesting and challenging journey. Aleia eventually married me and the three of us became best friends. It wasn’t an easy path to get to that point, but it was the most rewarding of journeys.

There is nothing more important in my life than Aleia, and that came through Wayne.

Friends. Many of the friends Wayne made are still my friends. Wayne’s father is like a father to me. The web of connections he created around him still exists.

CookBookCover_smallFood. Wayne loved to eat and he loved to cook. He was a professional caterer called “The Food Doctor.” He was a free sprit in the kitchen and taught me to trust my instincts when it came to food. If you are interested, we put together a cook book of recipes from Wayne and his friends. This is another little piece of his legacy; proceeds benefit Further Shore.

My outlook on Life. Wayne taught me to be intensely grateful–he was for everything, and hanging out with him helped me get past some own crap and see the beauty in day-to-day life. Wayne demonstrated how to live simply, happily, and gracefully. Wayne was uncompromising in the life he led and taught me a lot about how to create the life you want. In the end, when Wayne was in hospice, he let me be with him to help him live those last few weeks (while there was no denying he was dying , we focused on making those last days the best they could be). It was an honor.  It was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the best thing I’ve ever done. His life changed me and so did his death. He kept teaching me until the end (and beyond, really).

I could go on. But I think you get the picture. My life today has Wayne written all over it–in fact I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like without Wayne. And for that, I am very, very grateful. And I am not the only one. Wayne had a way of touching people deeply and keeping friends forever.  And although it might sound odd, given that he’s been gone for ten years, Wayne is still my friend.

In some ways you can measure the value of a life in terms of the legacy left behind. And ten years on, Wayne’s legacy is still very much alive in mine and a lot of other peoples’ life. I miss him, sometimes terribly, but I am beyond grateful that we was part of my life and continues, through his legacy, to be part of my life.

We all get to live and we all must die. My hope is to live as well as my friend Wayne and to die with as much consciousness and grace as he did.

Miss you, Wayne!

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Robert J. McCarter

Robert J. McCarter is the author of more than ten novels and over a hundred short stories...... learn more

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  1. Wayne was my friend in college, at West Virginia University. Our group of friends get together every year, and Wayne is always with us in spirit. We even have pizza for breakfast in his honor (in honor of the 18 year old Wayne :)) Way back then at WVU he helped me grasp on to the idea to do something fun every day no matter what. My brother in law died last night. Today I went for a 2 hr bike ride and saw the most beautiful things – soaring vultures, a red hawk, contented cows in a field with Spanish moss decorated trees. I’m getting on a plane in the morning to be with my sister and her son do what you have to do at these times. I’m ready. Thank you Wayne!

  2. Has it really been ten years? Wayne was the first one to babysit Dakota and give Tom and I a break. Dakota cried the entire time and Wayne was such a champ about it. This is such a beautiful piece Robert- thank you for sharing and reminding me of what is truly important.

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