I’ll never forget some of the last words he said to me. “I want to be a blessing.”
I probably shouldn’t have been friends with him in the first place. We didn’t really have any similar interests. Our personalities often clashed.
Yet we bizarrely became friends. Maybe it was because his wife and mine got along. Maybe because he loved my band. Maybe because he graciously invited us over for lunch every week after church.
A lot of people thought he was too honest. Brutally honest. Offensively honest. Almost naive. But he always said what he meant. When you say, “he always said what he meant,” it usually has a negative connotation. Not in this case; it was pretty mixed. It meant unforgettable phrases like “My wife needs new stuff from Victoria’s Secret.” and “Don’t leave! You guys can just stay over!” and “Why do you still have a stomach? You had the baby 3 weeks ago!” and “I haven’t seen you in a few days. I missed you.”
It’s hard to keep someone at a distance that allows himself to be open and vulnerable with you. When someone trusts you with their passions, insecurities, and wildest thoughts, it’s hard not to trust them back.
When I found out he had another brain tumor—his first at just 15 years old—it was surreal. I can remember him in church one day, saying that he felt weird, that one side of his face was numb. I can remember a few times, sitting with him and his wife in the hospital, playing Mario Kart DS, waiting for his treatments. I knew he’d get better, like he did before.
His condition worsened. His memory started to go. He began calling all of his friends repeatedly, and leaving messages like, “Hey Dan, you know I’ve been going through this stupid cancer. I just want to tell you that I love you man, and my house is your house. If you ever need anything, you can count on me. I just want to be a blessing.” Then I’d get the same message 10 minutes later. And then again, 10 minutes later. Seven or eight times a day. Every day.
His was just about bed-ridden in the end. He’d wake up from sleeping because he was hungry. He’d stop eating because he was sleepy. That was his schedule.
The last time I was there, he didn’t even recognize his mom. He barely recognized anyone, except his wife. But, to anyone who came to visit, he let them know: “I want to be a blessing.”
At the memorial service, they had to cut short “Remembering his life” portion, because there were too many people wanting to share a story before the funeral home closed.
He was a blessing to me, and to many others.
On October 25, Saturday morning at 9:45 AM, my friend Lemir Diaz died in his bed, surrounded by his family. He was 31.