My friend Justin was sick when I met him. He was sick as long as I knew him. It was his sickness that brought him to Ohio way too often, where I would visit him at the Cleveland Clinic not often enough. On Monday 11/10/14, Justin Proper died following a long battle with a condition I could never pronounce or understand.
While his medical problems may have hindered him, they never defined him. Every time I was able to spend time with him at the hospital, he was chipper. To clarify, he was as chipper as his medication allowed. Justin was a positive force as long as I knew him. His disease gave him perspective and a morbid sense of humor. The first of those qualities taught me a lot about how to live and the second was uncomfortably funny and totally permissible considering his circumstance.
Justin liked movies and metal music. He was a shitty artist and a good writer. He exercised both when he could. I enjoyed all of it.
He worked his writing muscles hardest at Under The Gun Review, where I met him. When I came aboard, Justin had already been on deck for a while, helping his best friend James build a site where a family would soon be thrive. The UTG group I knew then has since split apart to various facets of the music and film industries, but remain tightly knit, especially in times such as these.
Justin wrote several columns at UTG. These collections are some of the most humorous pieces of observational comedy I've read online. Another batch of UTG's comedic writings came from Dane Sager, a comic Justin himself brought into the fold. I filled in for Justin once when he was unable to write a column one week. It sucked in comparison.
When we weren't making jokes or poking fun at UTG staffers, we were probably talking about heavy stuff. You know the sort. Life, love, and loss were popular topics. And as many more can attest, Justin could be and was often extraordinarily deep. He was also logical and super understanding. He talked me through some dark moments in my young adulthood in a way nobody else could. He made me see sense in situations in which I was to blinded by emotions to see clearly. He taught me that the perceptions of others don't matter as much as I think they do and that I should spend as much time on Earth doing what I like doing while spending time with the people I want to spend time with.
JP was a good friend and he touched a lot of people. He was the sort of guy who would drive more than an hour to a giant Christmas store to spend less than an hour of time with me while I was there (when able). He was there for me when I needed him. He was there for anyone when they needed him.
And now he's gone. And I'm so incredibly heartbroken.
Because Justin spent so much time in the hospital over the past year, he didn't get much time anywhere else. That left room for visitation, but even so, I didn't spend as much time with him as I wish I had.
I'm going to miss him a lot.
I've never lost a friend before. I never thought I would so soon. JP was 26 years old when he passed, surrounded by his family. Too soon. Much too soon. In dealing with this, I'm imagining what Justin might say if he saw me crying. I reckon something akin to "Stop that. You're being ****ing stupid." might be accurate. He was as humble as they come.
Tonight, I'm watching one of Justin's favorite movies, Valhalla Rises, and spinning the soundtrack to another one of his favorite films, Drive, in his memory. Maybe I'll order a pizza. He'd probably say that's a decent way to do it.