Farewell to My Friend, or How It All Began with a Selfie in an Ambulance
Selfie in an ambulance. pic.twitter.com/uHrVCYRAJU
— Oren Miller (@BloggerFather) May 28, 2014
So that’s it. For most of the then-800-members of the Dad Bloggers Facebook group, that’s how we found out that Oren Miller was even experiencing pain up to that point. I remember thinking he probably did something avoidable that we could bust his chops about later on, like balance incorrectly at the top of a ladder or got in a fender-bender. Something that was understandable, explainable, and something that can be recovered from.
None of us expected to find out about stage 4 cancer.
And it rocked us.
It shook our community of dick-joke tellers, NFL team greatness debaters, dads, writers, and friends. We were worried about Oren, his wife, and their children.
I’ve written about Oren before and how he has impacted the fatherhood movement as well as countless lives he’s touched through his simple task of starting a group for dad bloggers on Facebook.
This isn’t going to be one of those posts. This is going to be a selfish post, about what my friend taught me, just by being himself.
What I’ve learned since Oren got sick, is to really and truly value each and every day that we’re given. Don’t take anything for granted. I used to live by the personal mantra that if I valued you as an important person in my life and if I couldn’t remember the last time I told you as much, then I’d tell you. If I couldn’t remember when I last told you, then it had been too long. Over the years, I became complacent and figured people just knew it by now. After Oren got sick, though, it hit home.
What if that happened to me? Cancer is an unforgiving beast and it doesn’t care who you are, where you’re at in your life, if you have little kids, or if you can pay for the medical treatment. To steal a line from my teenager, it just “comes at you, bro!”
Yesterday, on the other side of the country from where I sat at my desk in my office, Oren was laid to rest. A few of our community were able to be there for the funeral, while most of us felt guilty for not being able to. The logistics of 1,051 of us piling into the gathering wouldn’t have been possible anyway, but that doesn’t make us feel any less guilt. Like we somehow let down the man who lifted all of us up for no reason other than he saw the value in everyone.
So what did Oren teach me? He re-kindled my desire to see the good in people and in every day life. He reminded me to appreciate the moment we’re in – our heaven on earth – because one day, we’ll reach our very last moment. Oren showed me that there’s an infinite amount of compassion and love to go around and he constantly showed us just how amazing it really is to be a parent, especially on the really rough days:
The night I found out that Oren had passed away, I dreamed of him. In my dream, we were walking outside in the sunshine and I told him what he meant to me and how much I valued him as a friend – everything I should have told him in his final days but didn’t do because I was foolish enough to believe in the luxury of time. He didn’t say anything back, he just smiled, lighting up those happy eyes of his, nodded and waved at me. Then he turned and walked off.
As near as I can recall, Oren didn’t believe in an afterlife, but I hope he’s wrong. I want to end up in whichever flavor of afterlife he may be in, so that we can stand in the back of the room and crack jokes while we people watch together for eternity.