About My Dead Friends and the Sheer Awesomeness of Life

pic3-05-w800-h600This is probably the hardest blog post I’ve written.

It’s a fact of life that sometimes bad shit happens that reminds us of how downright awesome our lives are.

This is gonna get a little dark. But there’s beauty to be found here as well. And I promise, this post comes straight from my heart.

In 2002 I was working at a craft store called Tall Mouse, making minimum wage.

During my lunch hour I’d study for my personal training certification in the break room. While I buried my nose in my textbooks, my coworkers—mostly little old ladies—would eat their sack lunches and talk about their husbands, grandchildren, and what happened on American Idol last night.

The staff was made up of a bunch of cute-as-a-button grandmothers, teenagers who worked there after school, and dudes in their 30s and 40s whose dreams had died.

Christina Smith was 19, artistic, cute, and shy. She had an innocent little crush on me that she made known in the way bashful girls do.

However, I was more into bad girls at the time, and even though she was 19, an age I had nothing against going after, to me she was still just a kid.

I also knew that if I ever even as much as flirted with her, Denise, her mom—who also worked at the store—would have my head on a stake and probably put it on one of the endcaps as a warning to the other 30- and 40-year-old dudes who worked there.

When I wasn’t busy with customers—helping 75-year-old women locate the bead aisle, schoolkids find art supplies, and families find frames for the pictures in their homes—Christina would come and strike up conversations with me while I mopped floors, stocked shelves, and re-arranged the endcaps.

C201073E-7FDD-4366-A943-1AAC7259B0FA-w800-h600We had some great talks about life and I tried to pass on what limited knowledge I had at the time about goal-setting, going after your dreams, walking your own path, and not caring what anybody thinks.

But there was really only so much wisdom I could pass on, since at the time I was a 32-year-old man who lived with his mother, made minimum wage, and spent my free time running around with strippers and various other confused females with low self-esteem, breast implants, and daddy issues.

As soon as I got certified I set off to start my own training business, and was happy to be moving on from Tall Mouse.

On my last day of work Christina came up to me with a look in her eyes that seemed to be one of both sadness and embarrassment, and handed me a sketch of a horse which she had drawn for me as a goodbye present. It was one of the sweetest things anyone’s ever done for me.

I hugged and thanked her, and told her I’d miss her and our little talks.

To build up my training business I trained a bunch of clients for free, typically in groups of 5 or 6 people at a time. And along with a few other employees of Tall Mouse, Christina became one of these free clients.

She gave it her all, and one time during a workout she even passed out. Looking back, I realize that I was training her—and everyone else—too hard. I had something to prove when I first started, and thought that driving my clients into the ground was how I’d make my bones in the industry.

How naive I was.

When Christina passed out, that was the last time I trained her. The gym was about 30 minutes from her home and it was hard to fit the workouts into her schedule. At least that’s what she said—but more likely she didn’t want be forced into a nauseous state of unconsciousness just to get toned up. She was already lean and fit-looking anyways.

Three years passed and I paid a visit to Tall Mouse to trot around the girl who would become my future trophy ex-wife.

I asked the little old ladies who worked in the fabrics department how Christina was doing, and their faces dropped.

They told me how her neighbor, a 19-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrom, in a totally random act of violence, had thrown on a dark cape and paintball helmet, walked into Christina’s house with a shotgun, and killed her and her father

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 6.26.32 PM-w800-h600Next he blasted away at the house across the street and tried to kill another neighbor, but fortunately the shotgun jammed. He then walked home and shot himself.

Apparently he had posted his plans to do this in a forum for people with Asperger’s Syndrome in the days leading up to the event.

I was heartbroken.

Now, I promise you, there IS a positive message coming. But we’re gonna have to go on a little ride together to get there…it’s gonna get bumpy, but it’ll be worth it…

12 years before this happened—on May 22nd of 1993—about a mile from where Christina lived in the same upscale community of Aliso Viejo, I lay sleeping after a long night of throwing drunks out of the bar I bounced at.

Right across the street from me, one of my best friends in the entire world, Shannon Stevens, was cooking up some hard-boiled eggs so he could get some protein into those growing muscles of his.

There was a knock at the door and Shannon answered it. I wish he hadn’t.

He was tied up, beaten, dragged to his safe, forced to empty it, and shot dead right there on his bedroom floor.

It was a planned home invasion robbery over marijuana money, territory, and vengeance. Shannon was just 22 years old.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 6.36.55 PM-w800-h600

I took this pic of Shannon in Europe making a funny face.

I’ll always remember the trip he and I took to Europe 5 months earlier so we could smuggle some European steroids back into the states.

Bill Phillips—before his book ‘Body for Life,’ back when he was a steroid guru—said Europe had better stuff than what we were smuggling in from Mexico. And unlike nowadays, most of the black market stuff was totally bogus. So Europe it was.

When Shannon’s roommate got home, he saw money laying all over the floor of the house like confetti and—since the water had evaporated from the pot the hard-boiled eggs were in—the eggs were just burning in the pan, filling the apartment with smoke and the smell of burnt egg shells.

That’s when he found the body.

After Shannon’s murder, I married his sister Cindy who I’d met at the wake—ex-wife #1.

I’ve written about some strange occurrences that happened after Shannon’s murder here and here

Now, shortly before his death in late ’92, I was making a video about steroids for sociology class. It was a no-holds barred, behind-the-scenes documentary I made exposing the taboo underworld of performance-enhancing drugs.

I felt like I was Chris Hansen or something.

In the film I interviewed a bunch of my friends in the bodybuilding subculture, all wearing masks to protect their identity. I tried to get Shannon to be in it but he backed out at the last minute due to the implications it could have on his career. He was moving over 1000 pounds of weed per month, so I completely understood.

There were 5 guys in the video. Dave, Bill, Steve, Randy, and Jonah.

Dave died of a heart condition in his sleep about 12 years later. A friend told me he thought it was from a bad batch of growth hormone Dave had just gotten in from India

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 5.58.48 PM-w800-h600

Randy Kravinit Baron

And Randy, AKA Kravinit—who was one the most social and genuinely likable people I’ve known in my life—died of a brain tumor in 2010.

Randy used to call my mom “mom,” even though he was a black dude. (Wait a minute…there used to be a black mailman in my neighborhood when I was a little kid…mmm, I’m gonna have to ask my mom about that.)

Randy was actually the first person I ever knew who made his living as a personal trainer. He taught me some of the ropes 10 years before I ever became a trainer. I even used to help train a few of his clients.

He later went on to become a well-known and accomplished photographer.

Randy wrote a letter before he died…

“I was fortunate enough to know that I would be leaving soon. Two months ago I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I kept it to myself because I didn’t want everyone feeling sorry for me, or people acting different around me.

If you are reading this, it is because I am already gone. I didn’t want to deal with all the tears and the goodbyes and all the bad stuff..I wanted people to remember me as always smiling, always taking pictures, always having a great time!

and ends…

I’ll be at the BIG party upstairs with my camera waiting for you guys to come up, and if I have to make a special trip down for you, I will hahahha! I LOVE YOU ALL!!”

The rest of the letter is posted here.

Randy left behind a teenage son.

Back around 1985, when I was 15, me and my buddy Bryan were body-boarding at Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point California, which is where I currently live.

At the beach we ran into our friend Graham and set up a meet to get some hits of LSD from him later on.

My mom picked me and Bryan up from the beach and was driving us home in my family’s burgundy station wagon when we saw a car smashed against the center divider out in front of what would soon become our local Target store.

There was a body lying in the street that looked like it had flown though the window of the crashed car. We saw a limo driver get out of his limo and run over to the body.

cross-w800-h600The next day at summer school we learned it was Graham who we had seen lying there dead in the street.

One night about 20 years later and 80 or 90 yards from where Graham died, a buddy of mine named Bill Nastasiak —who I’d known since high school and was undoubtedly the funniest friend I’ve ever had—parked his truck in the parking lot of that Target because the lot of the apartment complex in he lived in right across the street was full like it normally was.

(Right before I worked at Tall Mouse, Bill and I had worked together for the same printing company. There were many times I was having a shitty day and Bill would just walk up and make me laugh, pulling me out of my tormented head and putting a big ol’ smile on my face.)

That night, after parking his truck, Bill jumped on a BMX bike which he kept in the back of his truck, went tearing across the street, bunny-hopped the curb, was thrown from his bike, and landed on the bike’s handlebars, crushing his right lung and ribs and killing him.

Bill Nastasiak

Bill Nastasiak

Bill’s teenage son James, who I’ve known ever since he was a young boy, came walking up the street with his girlfriend, and saw a group of people and paramedics all huddling around and went up to see what was happening. He saw his father dying in the street.

Bill left behind a wife and three sons.

When I was 5 years old my family used to go to the neighbors’ house and watch old movies using this projector set-up they had. I remember my brother and myself crashing out in their waterbed while my parents stayed up with them, drank, ate, and laughed into the night.

475CF15B-8B64-49F4-AAF0-0062F8D0782A-w800-h600We moved away, and shortly after that, on June 12th, 1976, that neighbor was killed by mass murderer Edward Charles Allaway with 6 other innocent victims in the Fullerton State College Massacre.

I remember being real young and my mom trying to explain it to me. I don’t think I understood. I still don’t.

Back in the late 70s, when I was 8 or 9, the first kid I ever knew who lifted weights was my friend Jim Sikee. He was also the kid who got me into racing BMX.  Jim was killed in his early 20s when John—the driver of the car he was in—ran a red light. I was friends with John as well.

When I was 15 my friend Becky was run over by a lowered mini truck while leaving Knott’s Berry Farm. I remember the song “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd being played at her wake. Whenever I hear that song I think of Becky.

a_imran_-w800-h600

Imran Khawar

About 2 years ago, my friend, bodybuilder and personal trainer, Imran Khawar, died in his sleep while getting ready for a bodybuilding competition. Myself and 7-figure Sam had lunch with Imran in Laguna Beach shortly before his death. Imran left behind a young son. I blogged about his death here.

About 5 years ago, my friend Courtney, who actually became my first paying personal training client (after I offered to train her for free but she insisted on paying me), overdosed on painkillers.

Like Courtney and I, my long-time friend Jeff Clark also struggled with painkiller addiction. Jeff died of liver problems related to his drug use around the same time Courtney died. (And actually, Randy, who passed from a brain tumor, is the guy who introduced me to Jeff.)

And then there was Greg. Greg was a lawyer I knew who used to love to ride his Harley. On a road trip to Northern California with his longtime mistress—who I also knew—Greg crashed his motorcycle, killing both of them. I think that may have been when Greg’s wife and family first found out about his mistress.

In ’92 or ’93, my friend Brian, who I used to ride dirt bikes with, bought a bag of weed from me for a motocross trip he was taking down to Mexico with his best friend.

About a month later, I called his house to see what he was up to. This is back before everyone had cell phones. We all had beepers and landlines. Brian’s step-mom answered the phone and told me he’d fallen asleep at the wheel, crashing his truck in the middle of the night down in Mexico, and had died.

About a year later his best friend—who had survived the accident—jumped in front of a train a few miles from my home. Some people think he was actually the one who was driving the truck in Mexico and never got over the guilt.

I felt guilty about Brian’s death too. I always wondered if the the weed I sold him played a role in the accident that night.

Screen-Shot-2013-09-03-at-2.58.42-PM-w800-h600-w800-h600

Me on the left, Chris Payne on the right

And then there’s Chris Payne—my best friend from 3rd grade through high school. For the last 6 or 7 years I’d been trying to track Chris down online. I hadn’t seen him since I was about 15 or 16 years old and wanted to catch up. Last I’d heard he’d moved back to Australia where he was originally from.

Well, recently I found his mom on Facebook and sent her a message. She told me that even though Chris had a ton of great things going for him, he took his own life in 2005.

Damn.

These are all people who went way before their time—they might have went in God’s time, but they each had a ton of life left ahead of them; most went in their teens, twenties, or thirties.

And these aren’t the only ones, they’re just the ones I remember the most. There are so many more.

Hell, even the client I was training when I met my 2nd ex-wife killed himself. Maybe the marriage was cursed from the start.

I’m sure you’ve lost a lot of people as well.

One day they’re here, and the next they’re gone. And somehow Keith Richards lives on.

Now, I’ve also known a lot of people who’ve taken the lives of others—on purpose.

I knew the guy, Jason, who murdered my friend Shannon. We didn’t know it was Jason until years after the murder. At Shannon’s wake Jason actually came up, hugged me, and asked me if I knew who’d done it.

He’s now doing to 26 years to life in prison for Shannon’s murder.

There was a guy I used to talk to in AA named Ethan—I didn’t know him well, but I knew him. I think he may have had schizophrenia or something.

Well, one day I was reading the local news and saw Ethan’s picture on the front page—for killing his mother, wrapping her body in a bed sheet, going to Starbucks and buying a coffee on her credit card, and then calling the paramedics.

Ethan is now in prison.

prison-w800-h600When I was locked up in the mid-90s for trafficking marijuana, I knew at least 20 guys who were in there for murder. These are guys I ate lunch with, played handball with, and talked to on a daily basis.

They had killed moms, girlfriends, wives, gang rivals, and innocent people they didn’t even know.

And, just like my friends, their victims never knew their time was gonna end so prematurely.

As we get older, we lose more people. I imagine if we make it to our 80s or 90s, we’ll have known a heck of a lot more people who are dead than are alive.

Now, I didn’t write this post to spread any kind of doom and gloom or put bad thoughts into your mind. It’s not about that.

I wrote this for two reasons…

One…

I miss my friends. Some more than others. But I miss them all. Each one touched me in a different way and I’ll never forget ‘em.

And two…

Life is awesome, man.

But it’s so easy to forget just how awesome it is.

We get to live, breathe, and love today. We have friends, family, children, and pet dogs.

Just the simple fact that we exist is far beyond a miracle. There’s really no way to describe it. Words can’t do it justice. Nor can the mind totally understand it.

Here we are on this amazing journey, and we don’t really know how we got here or where we’re going.

Yet here we are. We’re alive.

But don’t forget, life is short. We can go at any time. Literally.

flower-w800-h600It’s just kind of built into the deal. Everyone and everything that’s born dies. Now it’s my own personal belief that the most important part of us—what we call our soul—lives on and is eternal. At least this feels like the truth deep down inside of me.

But our bodies and our egos are temporary. Here one day, gone the next.

Today is all we get. It’s all there is. When tomorrow comes, it will be today, and it’ll still be all we get.

I’m hope this blog post serves as a reminder for you to…

Focus on what’s important. Let your family know you love them. Go on awesome adventures. Cherish what you have. And live in today with everything you’ve fucking got.

I gotta be honest here; this blog post was tough for me to write. I sat down to do a short post on Christina, and 3000 words just kinda spilled outta me.

After writing this, part of me wants to crawl into a dark closet and cry. But I did most of that long ago.

There’s another part of me that can’t believe how good my life is, and is far beyond just grateful for everything I have…my family, my Veronica, my children—Emma, Abby, Titus and Zoe— this blog, and each and every person who reads it. That part of me wants to cry too—tears of gratitude.

I’m also grateful for the time I got to spend with the friends I wrote about in this post who’ve moved on.

I am grateful for my life.

If you lost anyone too young and miss them, feel free to tell me about it down below. Or if you love your life and are grateful for what you have, I’d love to hear about that too.

Talk soon,

Chris McCombs

Written by Chris McCombs

Just put your primary email in here and I’ll be sure to hook you up ( I hate spam too so I promise to keep it private and never share it with anyone) … I’ll see you on the other side

Comments

  1. John Lober says:

    You need to read my book when it gets back from the editor, bro. #MemoirsofaMachine I think you’ll appreciate it. Stay strong

  2. Wow man, very powerful post. Spot on message at the end. Thank you.

  3. Sorry to hear all of that man. Good message!

  4. Robyn Murrell says:

    All I can say is OMG!

  5. Thanks for writing that, Bro. And also having the balls to be honest about where some of us have been and hopefully bear witness to a few people still in the darkness-so that they know it’s never too late and you’re never to deep to make your way out.

  6. Chris,

    I am drawn to people who have dealt with tough things like yourself. What I have taken away from losing friends and family is to enjoy the hell out of the time I have. I also don’t get bothered by the small challenges that inevitably happen in life. I have a feeling you have a similar outlook. Great post buddy!

  7. Isabella J. says:

    I lost my daughter, my sister in law, and the best goddamn aunt in the world. Some days it feels like even taking a breathe is too painful. I needed this reminder that I am still here, I am still breathing and need to live better. I have been on the pity train the last few weeks, all the beauty has passed by unnoticed by me. Thank you Chris, you will never ever know what your writing has done for my life, and thank you sounds too small.

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      so sorry for your losses Isabella, I’m humbled that you found this post helpful, thank you so much for letting me know

  8. Robert Hadley says:

    Thanks for shaking me out of my depression. I was just missing my wife of 24 years who died nearly
    two years ago of cancer. Life is Awesome and I have to get back on track.
    Again thank you.

  9. Read the whole post brother and gotta say its hard hitting but i need to come out of this feeling that makes everything seems like a chore instead of an adventure.
    Being emotianally strong is very important in life.

  10. This post was long, very long but so so worth it. Thank you for being so vulnerable and for letting us into your world. Your message today was a great reminder of how short life is. Thanks champ!

  11. Excellent post, Big Chris. I lost my wife 7 years ago. She died thanks to hospital negligence when she went in for something that shouldn’t have killed her. I was left with our two young sons, whom I’ve been raising alone since then. But in the wake of that, I’ve learned to try to live as much as possible. I’ve learned to ride motorcycles, shoot firearms, drive cross-country, visit places I’d never had the chance to see…and the adventure’s just beginning. And I’m trying to teach my sons the concept that life is a huge adventure to be experienced. Do what needs to be done, but also have great experiences because we don’t get any do overs.

    • wow, good for you Chris. Your boys are lucky to have such a great mentor.

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      damn chris, sounds like you’re one helluva great dad and truly living a life of adventure my man

      so awesome – thanks for sharing this man, youre an inspiration

  12. We lost my 37 yr old sister 3 months ago today. We still don’t know why (waiting on the coroner’s report). I know all of her family and friends wish we had 1 minute to tell her we love her. And so it goes…

  13. Wow…this is really powerful.

  14. please blog about depression and heartbreak. If you already have im sorry I missed em. I do like your perspectives which seems to get to the heart of every issue and I seem to share alot of your same experiences in one form or another. Heading into my 2nd divorce and losing a person, who for whatever reason my heart is still somehow attached to, I agree the secret of a happy life is living in the moment somehow and trying to enjoy it. But with pasts like mine (and it seems ours) i not only seem to drag past negatives experiences around with me like an achor but also allow them to enter and fester in my positive moments, like a marriage. Anyways I would love to find to way to enjoy the moment as much as possible but havent been able to shake this depression like state that is to present. Maybe you have some insight in how dummies like myself can move on and enjoy this wonderful life without always replaying the past pains that haunt us. Thanks for sharing your experiences and my condolenses on the ones you’ve lost

  15. Thankyou for this mate. Just… thankyou

  16. I fucken love You Chris !!!

  17. Chris,

    I truly enjoy ALL of your blog posts and this is the first I comment. It amazes me how much one can go through in life as you do and, honestly, I have no idea how you can bear it all. But after all, there is always a positive conclusion. Keep up good work!

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      hey milan, honestly, the shit Ive been through aint nothing to what a lot of people go through

      and it’s all tests, and learning and growing experiences to become stronger and discover one’s true self and what’s important

      thanks milan

  18. Thanks for the post. I clear message for us to appreciate every moment that we live.

  19. Thanks for the reminder. Powerful post.

  20. Chris,
    Thank you for this post, it was raw, yet held life even though you wrote of death, murder, mayhem.

    Hope filled each written word and life beautiful life is very short, we are but a mist a vapor and then we fly away.
    Depending upon your personal relationship with the god of this earth ( Satan ) or the (God ) of all creation and the lover of our souls and the keeper of our days.
    I have been a Pastor and Family Service Counselor for a long time and with each loss, funeral, broken hearts, tears that flow ; I have come to this conclusion Death is messy !
    Though I have helped prepare many, many services for the departed and for their left behind loved ones, in side each of us is eternity sealed in our heart minds.
    I will never get over death, for it is the great separator of family, friends, loved ones.
    I leave you and your readers with these words.
    Funeral’s are for the living, the dearly departed have been; Absent from the body, present with the LORD.

  21. Shay Obrien says:

    As always Chris I enjoy what you put down on paper Food for thought . Lost a friend and also my father inlaw last week from Cancer . I try cram as much into my day as possible . Keep inspiring Shay

  22. I agree that the only place we can effect change, or anything else, is here in the now. But the now builds our past and shapes our future so we have to make the best of the moment. For me attitude is a major key that can totally influence my perception of an event. I try to maintain an attitude of gratitude and appreciation. Even the worst experiences of life can be turned upside down. Learn something. Take a lesson, be grateful for what you learn. Remember the good times. Let the bad dissipate.

    This isn’t a magical formula that automatically transports me to a happy smiley place. Pain, frustration, disappointment, it’s part of the package. But we have the tools to deal with it. We can think. We can think into and out of a situation.

    This article is powerful because it goes below the surface and raises questions about life. Be real, think and feel. You’ve done all three with this piece.

  23. Good post, Chris.I lost my father almost 7 years ago and recently lost an favourite uncle 3 months ago. I never really had a bad day with these 2 and that’s a rare thing because I don’t get along with a majority of people. I miss them both especially my dad and in my mind I try to wind the clock back so I can stop mourning but I can’t. Although I tell others including my siblings, that I got over it, I didn’t. They both were warmhearted and genuine people and that’s more precious than any diamond.

  24. Great blog and reminder. My mom died when I was 18 and she was 45. Way to early. But is has inspired me to push pass many limits and live an adventurous life because I knew how quickly the ride could end. Enjoy the ride my friends and smile the entire way…and don’t sweat the small stuff…and its all small stuff.

  25. Hey Chris, just wanted to say thanks. The past few years have been kinda brutal, from career losses, health problems to an eventual suicide attempt a few months back, let’s just say stuff got bad. I read this post this morning after a few rough days and wow did the resonate with me. Last night as I was laying there, in not such a good place because of my current situation I finally got fed up. Fed up with being this guy, depressed, lazy, angry and cynical instead of who I truly am. Instead of just wallowing in my own self pitying BS I grabbed a piece of paper and just started mapping out goals that I could realize now and not worry about tomorrow because I figured if I made today a success with a few small wins it would snowball. One of the things on my list was gratitude. I looked around and saw a ton of people and things in my life that I’m grateful for that I never thanked (at least not enough) the Man Upstairs for. I realized that when I wasn’t this guy, I was happy, grateful and an all around solid guy that just need some tweeking. With being fed up came a clarity that I haven’t felt in a while, a sense of relaxation and confidence in knowing that if I did what I could today, was grateful and lived in the moment those happy coincidences that you talked about in your other post would start happening again. I count reading this post as the first of those happy coincidences. Like I said, just wanted to say thanks, and let you know that you really helped someone. Be great brother.

  26. Diane Menchhofer says:

    Wow Chris – thank you for sharing and others that have posted about their losses and gaining insight into living healthier and happier lives. Mike Collins, I appreciate what you shared as well – it is a lot to do with attitude that helps us put into perspective about turning life’s upside down moments into building blocks to think and to be grateful.
    As for me, I have been struggling with deep grief and mourning a grandchild that is being planned to be aborted on Saturday, the 15th. My heart has been hurting so badly that it has been paralyzing me from having focus on immediate needs and just living. I have had a lot of people praying about this situation to get turned around and that my daughter and her boyfriend will have softened hearts and come to their senses that this is not right (especially in this circumstance of not using protection and it is just completely being selfish). I am choosing faith and hope in the outcome and not going to give into despair about this as I know no matter what, that God is in control and by His grace, a life may wind up being born or my daughter may come to know she needs to be restored to the Lord and He loves her no matter what.
    What I am trying to say is we do have choices. We also have choices on how we respond to others and our reactions. We never know what kind of impact we may make with others, so lets put on love and forgiveness and shake off hurts and the imperfections of others and what life wants to serve up to us daily, and fix our eyes and minds on the grand prize of eternal living with a God that wants to be our Heavenly Father – we just have to ask Him and accept His gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

  27. Michelle Devine says:

    WOW. Speechless. Such a moving post. I had to remind myself to breathe.

  28. goodness, how spot on you are all of the time…..I’ve definitely done my share of losing….My boyfriend took his life…. my little sister, my nephew, and my bestfriend Brian, all passed within the last 10 years…not to mention several friends, and my sweet 23 yr old cousin Misty who left behind a daughter and husband…all because of a rainy night car accident….and my sweet wonderful brother Brandon Raines took his own life in February of 2013…he was my heart and my soul….and one of the best musicians I have ever met…he even had a song on ITunes call Shoes( if you get a chance look it up, ironically it goes along with all of this)…he was my confidant, and the best brother in the entire world…I miss him like crazy..I never turn my phone off at night in fear that I may be the last phone call of someone…(in which I was for a couple of the above mentioned) …..sometimes it just seems completely unfair….my poor older sister is 30 and hasn’t since been able to adopt or have a child of her own due to medical issues…and she and her husband want a child more than I can possibly explain…..and yet they have joy…..people like them give other people hope…even when all seems lost….you do the same with your blogs although I was worried I was never going to get to the end of the gloom in this one….I made it through it…and I thought ” man….how much I relate to this”……My little sister came to life…literally…in my arms, after she was already pronounced dead…. she lived for 3 more weeks….and I have to tell you…that little Karson Grace, was in fact just that for me…..grace…..she showed me that life was worth fighting for, when I was in one of the darkest places I have ever been……..goodness how I miss her……all that being said……thank you for reminding us all today that Life is just THAT. WORTH the FIGHT…..no matter how dark it can get…every breath and everyday…..they seriously are just worth it. Thanks McCombs.

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      wow Kasi

      you’ve been through a lot girl. looked up your brothers song, and DEFINITELY goes along with this. he was very talented

      Sorry about your loses and keep fighting the good fight Girl

      all this had made you the true warrior you are

      I appreciate you sharing this, I really do Kasi

      • well, I must admit I freaked out a little bit when you responded back. thanks so much for checking out the song..in case you’re interested…..http://www.reverbnation.com/brandonraines
        That’s the rest of his music…. the song on iTunes isn’t really his style all the way… I mean he wrote it and all but when you saw him or heard him live it was all very Bluesy….he use to always sing me Tennessee Whiskey… anyways thanks again for the response and actually looking him up.. it means a lot.

  29. Like a soldier who finds himself at home on the comfy couch after a war… wondering how so many slipped away in front of him, while he sits there without a scratch. My grandfather was one of those guys after WWII. He made a lot of promises to the Big Man hunkered down in a foxhole, his ears bleeding from the shells exploding on all sides… He spent the rest of his life humbly trying to make good on them all.

    For those of us who have made it through the other side of our own shitty war on the inside can see the carnage left behind. It wasn’t bullets and shells, but land mines of bad choices and circumstances that laid our friends to waste. Now, years later the fog has lifted. I guess it’s our turn to grab what stragglers we find around us. Bury and mourn the dead, but then turn attention to the wounded and save who we can.

    A cheesy quote from the Aerosmith song rings appropriately in my ears…”It’s amazing, and I’m saying a prayer for the desperate hearts tonight…”

    Be well and keep up the good work. “And remember, the light at the end of the tunnel may be you.”

  30. Thanks Chris.. Very real and it hit home.. and thanks for putting up some Jim Carroll… RIP to all your for friends and everyone elses.. To my lost friends and family… RIP I love you all very much. RIP mom, granny ( a friend) Michael, Terry , Anna leigh,Day Dog, Bioc, Lorne, Nadia,Troy, Jules, Tim, MJ, Steve, Johny, Meghan, Janine,to many kids of friends, and many more.. Its a crazy mixed up beautiful world and thank you Chris for the reminder.. Live Life every day, look for new adventures and challenges and take massive action…

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      right on Mike… I can feel the love you have for your lost friends and family

      And like you said: “Live Life every day, look for new adventures and challenges and take massive action…”

      oh and yeah, I LOVE that tune man

  31. Chris, thanks for your vulnerability, lessons, and wisdom through those words. I think God has some divine timing in reading this article in that today is my mom’s birthday – a beautiful, smart, gifted human being who I lost 15 years ago to cancer. she was one of the youngest people to die of a particularly strong form of cancer that attacks blood cells. your article was encouraging and reminded me that somehow the worst pains and tragedies can remind us of the sacred bliss that we should be reaching for while gaining an elevated sense of appreciation within each day. through her death, though it’s something I’m still wrestling to figure out fully, I found faith, strength, perspective, and ultimately a relentless pursuit to live a life that would honor her and the 18 short years she blessed me with. Blessing to you brother.

  32. Hey Chris,

    I rarely comment on articles but I gotta say that I subscribed to your blog last year sometime and I have come to really, really like you. What a great writer you are. (!) Every time I see your name in my email I know it’s gonna be something powerful!

    I honestly can’t think of very much :-) that we have in common yet I think you are terrific. Keep doing what you’re doing. I find your writing extremely motivating.

    I get tremendous motivation & perspective when I read your stuff. I even printed out your “How to be freakin unstoppable” article recently to give to my 9 yr old son (had to black out a few words though) as it states what I feel about the opportunity that we have in America in a very direct, unambiguous way.

    I feel like I owe you. Probably lot’s of people feel that way b/c of what we get from your straight forward writing style,

    So thanks so much. I wish you the best. Keep it up. Randy

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      I’m humbled Randy, especially that you would share my stuff with your young son – with some words blacked out of course (=

  33. My dad died last Sunday of pancreatic cancer. A month before had a stroke n heart attack…..full military honors for a dad, father, friend….PERSEVERE!!!

  34. Brilliant. This one really touched my heart.

  35. This made me cry with such sadness…and gratitude.

  36. Scotty De Graff says:

    The Reaper doesn’t play favorites. I have seen my fair share of friends and family that had promising careers and happy families go down the road of depression and self destruction. Those are the toughest ones for me to accept. Life is good brother…we can’t forget that. Thanks for sharing your life with me.

    Scotty

  37. Thanks for sharing and sorry for your losses.

  38. Thank you so very much for sharing this. I have lost many people and not too many days go by that I don’t think of someone I have lost and what they meant to me. I needed to read this especially this morning :) you are awesome!

  39. Wow…reading about the pain (real pain) you’ve gone through really makes the troubles of what I’ve gone through recently seem even more insignificant. This post came at the perfect moment in my life before I dragged myself into a whiney little depression over shit that just doesn’t matter. You’ve reminded me to cherish my family and friends and to never let a moment pass to let them know how much I love them. Any one of them, myself included, can go at any moment, so why waste the moments we have left? Thank you for your inspiration. Stay strong, keep doing what you do because it changes the lives of complete strangers for the better. If there is anything that this stranger can do for you, I would be honored.

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      right on lance, thanks man

      and yeah man, we gotta cherish our friends and family

      meeting is the beginning of parting, and we never know when the parting comes

  40. Damn good one Chris. I started working ambulances when I was 19 and I learned real quick that we ain’t bulletproof regardless of our ages.

    In the last couple of years, I have lost several friends and relatives including a friend that I grew up with but lost contact with later. Finally found him and got back in contact. I was fortunate enough to get him over to Egypt to interview for a job with my company. He didn’t get it but it was truly a once in a lifetime trip for him. He never stopped talking about it and I’m happy that he got to see the pyramids with me and all that other tourist stuff. He dropped dead suddenly from a heart attack.

    Other friends and relatives are, like me, getting older and who knows if I’ll go first or if they will.

    But I fully intend to live my life to the fullest and I won’t “go quietly into that dark night”, I plan on doing just as Hunter Thompson said:

    “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

    Rock on brother, great post.

  41. Dear Chris,

    Thank you for what is quite possibly the most moving & inspirational piece I’ve ever read.I read a Lot.
    And yeah,like yourself & many of our friends on this page,I’ve suffered loss,both family members & dear friends.However, we Must carry on ! what else is there ?
    My reason for posting today (after being introduced to your blog a year ago) is that I’m soon off on my first visit to a dear friend who recently crashed his bike,& is ‘not expected’ to walk again-don’t know what to say to him,& or how to hide my tears /sorrow.
    However ,for starters-I’ll be introducing him to you via your blog-Starting with this one !

    Thanks & Kia Kaha Chris ! (Stay Strong)

    Damian.

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      I wish you a wonderful visit, no matter how tough it is

      and I’m honored you’d shared my blog with him. Honored.

  42. Chris, this is an amazing post man.

    Lost my college roommate from an alcohol-related incident in 2011, and have seen tons of fellow “friends of Bill” lose their lives these last few years.

    And most importantly, thank you for the complete honesty here. It can’t be easy to pour your heart out like this — but you’re doing an amazing service to all your readers. Great stuff, buddy!

  43. Styles Bitchly says:

    I’m grateful for your friendship my old friend…Shine On You Crazy Diamond!

  44. Wow Brother. I cant even recall the post that someone shared on FB this afternoon that I clicked on never read it cuz it took me to the singup page? I clicked and then left the window open on my desktop. I came back tonight and was about to close everything down (an hour ago) and I just clicked on your blog section… to see if anything looked interesting since I couldnt recall why I clicked in the first place. This post caught my eye. Glad I did. I NEVER read posts this long (though in my forray as a blogger, I couldnt help but write posts this long) but this one sucked me in. I felt your pain. It was dark, yah… at times Im like holy shit does this guy have anyone left? It showed me how amazingly blessed Ive been so far in life (we are about the same age) Ive honestly only lost grandparents (I never really knew) and a few people I knew of… the only one that really hit me was my ex wife, the mother of my kids and HS Sweetheart. Even after a rocky marriage and cheating (by her) and a tenuous period after the divorce. It hit me like a freight train. I was the one on my knees in front of the coffin. Not her POS 2nd hubby who never shed a tear. But with only that experience to go by… were youve been and to have come out of all that (Im pretty much a choir boy compared to your colorful past as decribed here) with the attitude you have man, that is truly inspiring. It was real and raw. Ive been trying to find my way through this online jungle and make a living out here… buying every damned thing thats come along and blowing 1,000’s. I am coming to realize that that will all come when I start being real. Not just spewing some slef help crap cuz I read it. What have I lived… what are my take aways from the real shit. Thats what I think people want. I know you just proved to me that that is what I want to read. Im droning on and I have no idea if you make $ with this blog or not … whatever. I just know that if you write like this all the time… your sure missing a chance to if your not. Cuz folks wanna follow folks who are real. From what I see you are that. Anyway, thanks bro. It was quite a ride. You have a gift.

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      hey thanks for your heartfelt post Dave

      glad you’re liking what you’ve read

      and yeah man, the losses can be like freight trains, I feel you bro

      we trudge forward

      thanks again Dave

  45. After reading alot more of your blog… I need no longer wonder IF you are a marketer! LOL! Anyway. Serious Question for you. I recently gotten serious about getting my health back. Ive actually lost 30 (of my 380 lbs) fumbling about doing different things. I had just settled on 4HB… I see that you reccomend it. Right now I need basic and cheap. Not allot extra. (though I did order a total gym on a payment plan deffered for 60 days) But I also see that you reccomend the Renegade plan. Of the two, Which do you think offers the best odds of dropping major tonnage. All else being equal.

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      Hey Dave, man, it’s which either you can stick with

      Renegade Diet is great, but it’s intermittent fasting that not everyone can handle

      I’d focus on starting to make better food choices at first, less processed foods, cut out sugars and eat more lean proteins, healthy fats (fish oils, raw almonds, and coconut oil) and veggies

      and remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint

      • I am doing that with the healthier choices. As a Chef and a Trucker (odd combo?) I have not had the most condicive occupations for healthy wieght. Though I no longer use those excuses. Ive got a NutriBullet which is great. I am cutting out as much processed crap as possible. Finding & Affording grass fed beef , free range organic poultry and organic produce are the toughest things.

        Do you believe in the MED or Occams workout theory? Its very hard to grasp after being raised on the Live in the gym mentality back in the day. It seems so counter intuitive?

        • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

          hey david, yeah that is an odd combo of gigs and like you mentioned, neither help with the weight

          I actually am not sure about either of those types of workout therapy

          I know for myself, 12 minutes of kettlebell swimgs in the morning, like 10-15 reps, and 10-20 second rests can help a ton

          nutrition IS the biggest thing man

          I struggle with it myself

  46. Jim L. Lamp says:

    Chris,
    This really hits home with me as a lot of your post do. I have lost so many close to me and this made me think and miss them immensely. I will be hugging my family tight tonight for sure.

    Thanks for all your inspiration…

    Jim

  47. Very moving blog. Thank you. Loss is a hard thing and I believe it should make us more aware of how precious life really is. Each passing of a friend or family member leaves holes in our lives. Those holes are ragged, with sharp edges that we run into reopening our emotional wounds time and again. I have found those holes do not heal but the edges do sofen over time. These shape us, for better or worse. If we take away, as you have, that life is to be savored & treasured then this is their final gift to us.

  48. Rob Farrington says:

    Amazing post, Chris – it had me in tears.

    I only found your blog about a week ago after jokingly googling ‘how to be a badass’ (I actually don’t mind being a 5’8” 160lbs sci-fi nerd and anyway, I’m fairly muscular in that lean ‘couldn’t bench-press for shit, but can at least do 20 pull-ups and easily hurdle a wall’ kind of way. Well, for a given value of ‘fairly’, anyway.

    I have your site bookmarked and regardless of what you think about yourself, you’re an amazing and inspiring writer. Your honesty and openness is something that this world could do with a lot more of. I’m currently trying to overcome a drug addiction myself – nothing like what you’ve been through, but I have a codeine and poppy tea habit, and I’m also taking something called phenibut (which you possibly might have heard of, being involved in the bodybuilding scene). I take it for social anxiety, but it’s a powerful GABA-b agonist, and the withdrawals can be brutal.

    You seem like the kind of guy that I’d be proud to know in real life and for what it’s worth, I think that Christina, Shannon and your other friends were lucky to have known someone like you in their unfairly cut short lives.

    You might disagree, and wish you’d done or said something to let them know how much you cared about them before you lost them, but aren’t we all that way? We know in our hearts that we could lose anyone we love at any moment, but do we let them know how much we care about them, because we might not see them the next day? Nope – we’ll probably just end the night with a stupid argument, or at best, with a dismissive ‘see you tomorrow’. We’re slaves sometimes to knowing what’s right, but being so caught up in the small stuff that we let ourselves forget what’s really important.

    On the plus side, I’m a lot more huggy and and affectionate than I used to be (despite the shyness). On the negative side, only women seem to appreciate it, which means that most of the guys where I work assume that I’m gay. And not being interested in football (sorry, I’m a Brit – for that you should probably read ‘soccer’!) doesn’t help.

    What the hell, I can appreciate irony! Finally girls really like me, but they see me more as a kind of brother or a close friend than a potential date. Maybe I should take those Guide Dog puppy photos off my wall, and replace ‘em with something a bit more macho, just in case *ahem*.

    Anyway, I’m waffling on so I’ll shut up now, except to say please keep writing, Chris. I know you don’t see yourself as a guru, but I and probably all your other commenters don’t see you as one, either.

    We don’t need any more self-proclaimed prophets or people with perfect hair and shiny-white teeth to tell us how to live our lives.

    A regular guy who’s been through a lot, though…that’s someone I’ll listen to.

    God bless (I have a similar concept to you of some kind of higher power) to you and all of your family.

    • Chris McCombs Chris McCombs says:

      Hey Rob, man thanks so much for this comment

      Phenibut, poppy and codeine

      Man, I know how that can be

      I hope you’re able to get that shit behind you man, I ain’t telling you nothing you don’t already know, but that stuff can really suck the life outta ya know and become all consuming, making you need it all the time

      but hey brother, I aint here to preach – I just hope you’re able to get off it, even if you need to go into a detox or something

      thanks again for your honest and heartfelt comment

  49. Hey Chris

    Thanks for this one. I’ve been reading your stuff a while now but this resonated so much with me, like you I’m in recovery ( 5 years now) and nearly three years ago I lost my two eldest kids, 6 months apart.

    As you can imagine, I went to a very dark place, still can from time to time but in the last year have a aged to get some kind of acceptance around it and am retraining to be a therapist which is something I would have never foreseen me doing.

    I really try to live one day at a time, with gratitude and I can a lot of the time. I identify so much with you dude ( ps weight training really ducking helps!!!!!).

    Thanks, keep writing big fella.

    Lots of love

    Nick

  50. A couple of years ago I had a student die from cancer. I remember seeing Lindsey one day in boot camp with a scar on her shoulder. I asked her about it and she said that she had skin cancer and it was removed. She felt lucky that they found it early. I left the workplace where I taught and lost touch with her. About 1 year later a student contacted me and told me that Lindsey’s cancer came back and spread throughout her body. She was in the hospital and they knew she would die soon. That day I went to the hospital to see her. She was in really bad shape in a lot of pain and they didn’t want to wake her. Her organs were shutting down. I was glad to see her and her family but it was hard to see this happening. The next morning I found out that she died. She left behind a husband and a young son.

    I still have her before/after picture on my website with her written testimonial. It feels good knowing that I made a positive impact on her life and that she really loved my boot camp and had made a lot of good friends.

  51. … well…. that was interesting. I’ve been sitting here all evening, pissed off at the world, and frustrated by a series of inconveniences. All surmountable. All of them. Because it really is about perspective. Life is awesome, as you say. I just have to remind myself that the awesomeness happens right after I get past the few inconveniences.

    About 5 months back, I began sharing your blog with my 18 yr old, 109lb son. He is a diabetic and was not taking care of himself. I told him how skinny you were… and what you look like now. He is now 119lbs. That might not seem a big deal to you, but he has triceps now lol. And keeps showing them off. Thanks for giving him hope. Thanks for reminding me to hope.

  52. Thanks for sharing. I’ve read a few of your articles and have always found something to make me think. I’d like to share one of my thoughts of recent times that seems fitting. http://hawkwindsaerie.blogspot.com/2009/10/ghost-of-past.html

  53. Chris,

    I feel at a loss for words. This post was heartbreaking and at the same time inspiring. I admire your strength and courage–in writing this, and even more so continuing to live your life, despite all this pain. How is it that you are able to maintain such a positive attitude about life? Its something I struggle with in the wake of tragedy and loss, despite not having lost and endured as much pain as you have.

    Thank you for sharing this extremely incredible post.
    With best regards and deep gratitude,
    Bianca

  54. Meredith says:

    Damn you are one hell of a writer, Chris. Your perspectives and experience really touch my heart and I’m grateful to find a sense of community and similarity in your loss, as bizarre as it sounds. It’s almost as if it makes me feel less alone, you know? You’re one hell of an inspiration. I loss my sister in law to stage 4 breast cancer March 8th. I was fortunate enough to get to see her 5 days prior. We had no idea she was going to pass, otherwise my wife and I wouldn’t have left town on vacation. Her heart have up on her and she had a heart attack. Not only is death and passing painful (even if you know in your heart they are in a better place and at peace), the aftermath sometimes can be similarly painful. In dealing with a not so functioning addict brother and him trying to raise their two young boys, to trying to figure out how and when to step in, what that looks like, it’s all challenging and very painful. Yet, looking at it from a similar perspective as yours, I will forever hold into the fact that I held her in my arms and we told each other how much we love each other only 5 days before her heart gave up on her fight. I had closure, in a cryptic way. I think of her daily, and the fact that she is gone really hit me when we celebrated her son’s 6th birthday in May. Life surely is precious. Thank you so much for your gift of expression and for sharing it with the world. I appreciate you.

  55. Hey Chris,

    This was great material brother sorry you went through all of that! I myself was locked up for 7 yrs on drug related crimes being young and nieve and lost alot of friends that I grew up with. Hold on to the memories of the good times buddy and know that you will see them again in the afterlife. Keep speaking from the heart it’s the best therapy we can give ourselves.

  56. Hey Chris,
    This was an incredible story, I feel like I need to read it everyday to remind myself of what really matters and that we really need to savour every second.

    I follow a few blogs, but yours has got to be the most touching and honest! Every time I read a new post, it always gives me the mindset and advice I needed (you’re like a big brother haha). I think that hearing what you’ve been through really helps put everything into perspective for me, thanks man!

  57. This touched me. Blessings to you and your family! Stay strong. <3

  58. Wow, just wow man. I have trouble when it comes to crying because I always keep my feelings inside so I’m surprised I did (a little) when I got to the part of your co-worker Christina. How sad, but it makes you appreciate life more. I’m glad I found your blog and thank you, you don’t know how much I needed this.

    BTW, I dig your PUNK rock attitude dude =]

  59. Great post and very touching comments as well. I had a lady who was a personal training client of mine for a good long while. She had a son and though she tried to have a second child, a successful pregnancy didn’t seem to be in the cards as she kept miscarrying. Eventually her doctor figured out the hormone imbalances and she was able to deliver a healthy beautiful baby girl named Sophie. Though I never met the little girl as the family had to move out of state during her 8th month of pregnancy, I felt a bond with her since her mom and I had become friends through our sessions and we had trained together right up until her departure date. The long and short of the story is that little Sophie became unable;e to control her eyes and some of her facial movements when she was a little over a year and a half. The diagnosis was brain cancer. Sophie and her parents spent the next year and half (the second half of her life) in and out of hospitals, in surgeries, treatment centers, etc etc until finally her little body said enough. She died of pneumonia related complications shortly after being re diagnosed with an inoperable tumor. This was 1 day after Christmas. Sophie, like my son, loved trains and one thing we could do for her, was to show her love, compassion, and support by taking train pictures and making them into posters, t shirts, etc and sending them to her. We would e mail pictures for her Mom to show her and she said they always cheered her up. While this tale resonates in a void little Sophie’s passing has created within me, the positive was that my son was taught first hand the value of compassion and humility amongst other things. He, even as a 7 year old, became a care giver of sorts to a needy little girl and was able to bring some sunshine into her life. I’m a very proud father.

  60. I like how you write. After reading this I must admit that I had a little tears in the eyes. Thinking of all the brothers I have lost in combat and the brothers I have watched die after a building collapse here in the states. With this being said I have lost many hours to demonds that haunt me. I use to just sit there and snugle up to the three wise men to get me through. Now I have a great woman at my side and a loving son that I hold strong for. While I am in dept up to my ass and have POS for a car, I am thankful. My family has food and shelter plus a good amount of love. Hell what more could I want. Thanks Chris you are a good man to help remind others that crap isn”t that bad.

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