Friday, February 13, 2009

The Passing of a Titan

Yesterday my friend Kirk Lawrence passed away, after a long battle with a brain tumour.

Kirk and I met in Tallahassee, when I was doing my Master’s at FSU. The second year I was there, I decided not to get a student loan and instead to augment my TA salary with some part-time jobs. One of those part-time jobs was at Vinyl Fever. Working at the Feve was a really awesome time in my life that I’ll remember very fondly, mostly because (in addition to lots of free music) my fellow emps ruled.

Yes, that's right: DJ Jazzy Jeff, Kirk, and Questlove!
Kirk is inextricably linked to my memories there; we spent hours and hours talking about music, and movies, and ninjas, and zombies, and relationships, and BBQ, and pizza, and music some more. I remember like it was yesterday the way he did his little hand thing every time he pushed the button to open the cash register, and how he was able to stay cheerful even when mopping the floor.

The day some random person drove a DeLorean to Vinyl Fever.

Kirk was a very special dude, and it’s impossible to get that across unless you knew him. He had this way of talking with his hands, what one of his friends called “doing the shrug/head turn/hands out thing that made him famous.” He really did give the best hugs ever, and even when you were cranky and feeling like you hated everyone, you always knew that Kirk still loved you, best of all. He had this absolutely amazing smile: it just lit up his whole face and was totally infectious. It was like magic, beautiful and bright.
The essence of Beast.

Kirk was also a best-nerd friend. That is, you could talk to him about any geeky thing you liked and he would still dominate you in the enthusiasm department. He liked what he liked, and he liked it a lot. His friends loved him for it. John Jarvis wrote, just the other day after Kirk’s massive group of seizures, that he thought Kirk was hanging on so long in order to see a couple's here-any-day-baby come into the world. Someone responded, “don't tell Tiffany this, but I suspect his hanging in there is equal parts "waiting for baby" and "waiting for Watchmen." And John responded, “Hahaha, I was talking about Watchmen the other day...maybe Sunday?...and Kirk opened his eyes real wide. So you might be on to something.”

He had this creative streak that never ended, whether he was being a ninja or writing movie-scripts about zombie love stories.

After I moved from Tallahassee, we didn’t talk on the phone much, and the last time we hung out when he was relatively healthy was in December of 2007. But we did for a long time keep up a very active AOL IM/Myspace/Text Message relationship. Turning on my computer was always a treat, since up would pop a message from ‘Bottlerockit’ that usually contained my name with lots of exclamation points after it. And he truly was the Master of Myspace Testimonials. Every one he ever left me was part-funny, part-loving-goodness.

I remember the fateful day when the brain tumor started causing him trouble. I think it was a Saturday, and we were working at the Feve. I was especially irritable that day and probably had a hangover. We were pretty busy customer-wise, and I was starting to get annoyed that Kirk wasn’t checking anyone out, just standing behind the counter doing nothing. Then he started feeling really sick to his stomach, so I felt a little guilty for being angry at him. Then he started feeling so terrible that he had to go home. Imagine how bad I felt then. But it got worse. Imagine how really, truly terrible I felt a few days later when Kirk announced that he’d gone to the doctor and it turned out he had a brain tumor.

Our boy went through something like four brain surgeries, with the outlook switching from happy to grim and back again over the next several years. Finally, a few months ago, John Jarvis, Kirk’s best friend, got the word out that things were rapidly going downhill. The doctors had decided that nothing could be done anymore, so they sent him home to spend his last days with his family. He surprised them all by rallying and holding on for several months. Thanks to John, his friends were able to come in from all over to see Kirk one last time. I was fortunate to spend the afternoon with him on January 12th, just before returning to Greece and one month exactly before he died.

Since it ended, there’s been a flurry of emails going around, with all his friends reminiscing about what an amazing dude he was. It’s helped a lot, having a full inbox to get me through while stuck here on the other side of the world. Still, I can’t stop myself from checking his Myspace and Facebook, and AIM, even though that little ‘Online now’ message will never show up again.

Kirk Lawrence, 7.24.81 - 2.12.09
Others on Kirk: Zach Powers


Nauplion said...

A splendid tribute. You are an equally fine friend.

Claire said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Katie. He sounds like an amazing guy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear the news Katie. He does sound like a wonderful guy.


Johanna said...

i send hugs to you, katie. he sounds like a wonderful, fun friend. i'll be thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss, Katie.Many hugs for you.

Benjamin said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Katie. *hugs*

Tiffany said...

Hi Katie. This is Tiffany, Kirk's baby sis. Just wanted to say hang in there. My son, Kirkland, was born exactly a month after we buried our fallen soldier,Kirk motha f-ing Lawrence. I miss him so much, but know that he wants us all to keep it moving. Thank you for sharing your memories. I find comfort in your thoughts. It's a hard journey to take, but I'm learning more and more about my strengths as the days go by and I no longer hear his voice or am unable to get me one of those infamous hugs. Kirk and I used to hold hands. It was reasurance that everything was ok, even if they weren't. I miss my brother. Hang in there.