[From April 20, 2017: Oh, how I miss this man.]
After Pete & Beth came to visit us last year, I told Beth that my wife had developed a pretty big crush on Pete. “I might even be slightly bothered by it,” I disclosed, “if I didn’t have a pretty serious crush on him, too.” Beth heard that sort of thing a lot, I would learn, because that was Pete’s way… charming and engaging, full of wit and always with a story. Anyone with the chance to know Pete, well, they probably ended up having a crush on him, too.
Beth and I have been friends since college, but their visit last year was my first time actually meeting Pete in person, after years of online banter. Their visit was so meaningful because they’ve both been a beacon for us in this shit storm, shining examples of how not just to weather life’s storms with grace and humor, but to somehow thrive in the midst of it, with gratitude, hope, and love. Being able to see them in person gave me the unique opportunity to watch Beth care for Pete… and in his way, Pete for Beth. They were a masterclass in how to navigate the murky waters of a messy caregiver/caregivee relationship. Prior to their visit, Beth and I spent a lot of time talking about how to manage the new relationship dynamic that developed after Chelli’s initial diagnosis, but it was Pete who would address it with me when they were here visiting.
We were having breakfast on the morning they were leaving, when Pete interrupted my inane ramblings to tell me that he had something “important” he wanted to discuss. I kidded him about coming with an agenda, but he made it clear that he was serious. He wanted to talk to me about the importance of taking care of myself. “When you’re a caregiver,” he began, “you must focus on taking care of yourself, first, because there are people who are really depending on you to be healthy and whole.” It wasn’t exactly new information and he wasn’t the first friend to broach the subject with me, but coming from Pete that morning, sitting in his wheelchair with a couple decades of medical challenges under his belt, it was a message of unmatched knowledge, compassion, and urgency. Yes, Chelli was sick, but he wanted to talk about how I was doing. And so we did.
On my way home from the office earlier today, Beth called to tell me that Pete had passed away unexpectedly. He’d been struggling with some additional health issues in recent months, we knew, but this was the last thing I expected to hear from my dear friend on my Thursday afternoon commute. I pulled over to the side of the road, talked to Beth for a bit, then quietly cried on my way home. When I got home, I broke the news to Chelli — she loved him so, so much — then we cried some more. I still don’t know what to say, except that I am so grateful to have had the chance to share space on this planet with a man like Pete Scibienski.
May you rest, my good man, in peace.
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