Back in 1998, I not only met my husband, I made many new friends as well. My husband had (and still has) a very large circle of friends that have been part of his life for a long time. (I actually always envied that since life took a lot of the friends I had growing up on separate paths). One of those friends I met was Derek. To Joe, he is one of those friends who is more like family. For me, knowing him a shorter time, he means a lot to me too. And this past Saturday, February 19th, instead of wishing Derek a happy birthday, Joe got a phone call that he had passed away.
Derek was struck by a car in December of 2000 and was seriously injured, sustaining severe head trauma and becoming a quadriplegic. It took him quite some time and a lot of hard work to recover as much as he could, but he came such a long way over the past 10 years. After being in the hospital for I don’t even remember how long after the accident, he spent a few years in a rehabilitation center in Upstate NY. Then he moved to Albany to be closer to family. Although he had 24 hour home care, he lived in his own place. He didn’t let his disabilities stop him from doing what he could. Since he lived far enough away, we didn’t get to see him as often as we would have liked. But we did go to see him when we could and Joe talked to him all the time. Every time we went to visit him, part of our visit would be spent with him at the gym. I will always remember feeling ashamed of myself for not exercising regularly for no good reason at all when Derek went to the gym religiously to work out his upper body. And he was in a wheelchair! He loved the sun & so many times when Joe would call him up during the warm weather, would get the answering machine because he was out soaking in the sun. Despite what he had been through, he never lost his sense of humor. He was always joking with us and reminiscing with Joe about old times. He was an inspiration to everyone that knew him. And this was totally unexpected. Joe had just spoken to him the night before. His life was lost overnight with what seemed like no sign that anything was even wrong.
I came across a quote a few days ago that is so perfect for a time like this. “For some moments in life there are no words” David Seltzer.
This truly is a moment that no words can describe. We’re still in shock and it doesn’t feel real. My heart aches even more for his family who lost a brother and a son and for my husband who lost one of his best friends. And Derek is going to be missed terribly by so many people.
RIP Derek K.
2/19/69 – 2/19/11