This is a bit of a heartbreaking post for me. I never quite imagined I’d be writing something like this soon. One of my biggest cheerleaders and bestest friends passed away recently.
He was the kind of friend who was always there.
I met him when I was doing my undergraduate studies at the American University of Sharjah. Lade was a lawyer who taught Business Ethics and Law at our university. But he never taught me in a classroom. We found each other like we were meant to find each other. And he knew he wanted to be my best friend straight away. I took a little time in warming up to a deep reciprocal friendship but that was one of the biggest things I learned from Lade- He was unconditionally loving. Also the other thing I learnt from him is- There is no need to waste any time befriending people or loving people. If you have a good sense of your inner voice and you know someone is right for you, they are.
We’d get together in his house once in every while and we’d tell each other stories. I’d tell him of the latest heartaches that were taking over my early adult life then and he’d sympathetically say something like- “Being young is soo hard.” Haha. Being Indian was especially hard.
Metaphysics and spirituality and understanding the workings of the mysterious universe were some of our favorite topics.
Lade always had some stash of dark chocolate, almonds and raisins. Over amazing home-made coffee and conversation, I’d munch a whole lot of those. So much that he’d need to go out much more often than usual to restock on the goodies.
Lade was also very curious about the Indian food and the Indian spices. So I introduced him to all the spices and I am happy to say that he fell in love with them so much so that I think he always used them ever since in all his meals. He was so creative with them and I think he even started spicing up his coffees and smoothies and whatnot.
We would make Indian American renditions of biryanis. He was always quite shocked at how much salt I needed in my food. He sometimes used rock salt which I considered was a poor excuse for salt. He’d always warn me- “You are going to die if you have that kind of salt!” “Every vegetable has its own flavor, you know? You don’t need the salt.” That was news to me back then. Really, they did? Oh yes, he was right!
And I learnt how to make my favorite strawberry yoghurt smoothie at his place. Strawberries, yoghurt, banana and orange juice. With maybe some cinnamon to top up. We would always get started with one of those.
He once prepared for me the roast Christmas turkey with stuffing. That was the first time I had that and it was delicious! Oh Lade knew how to show his love. He was without doubt, one of the most generous people I knew and loved.
Within a year of our friendship, he had retired and gone back to the US. We promised to stay in touch and we did. We did lose touch for awhile there but Heaton always kind of knew when something was going wrong in my life and he would reach out to send some positive thoughts and love.
Since I moved to the UK and I started working on my dream, we were speaking to each other more frequently. I was learning, meeting people, learning some more, launching DFYnorm and going through all the madness in between.
I just cant begin to digest what it means to not have Lade in my life anymore. That I’d never be able to share another victory with him. Or another pain.
He was always a call away. We had so many plans together- Either I was supposed to go meet him or he was planning to meet me here in London, we were supposed to write a book together, to visit India and go on that train that goes from the southern most tip to the northern most. He had the bright little child in him until the very end.
A lot of my friends knew J Lade Heaton as the one person who would always without exception “like” everything I posted. And then when we began posting on DFYnorm, he’d like every post over there too. My people Alex and Michael would have a little fight amongst themselves if they found that Heaton did not like one of their posts on DFYnorm. Alex decided, if Heaton doesn’t like this post, there’s something wrong with it. Clearly, it is not aligned with the values of DFYnorm.
I think it is probably the first time that I have so fully understood how devastating it is to lose someone you love, someone who loved you. Lade knew me and loved me.
When you lose someone, there is literally nothing anyone can say to make it better, nothing to do but to feel the loss, feel the grief. If you ever wanted to reach out to them again, you simply can’t. There is never another person who can take their space.
I have a new found respect for people who have to endure the loss of their spouses, their children, their significant others, their best friends and so on. I cannot know the courage and strength it takes them to turn over a new page, to deal with the pain.
We always wait to learn this until someone passes away- Sort out your priorities. Love is the most important thing. People you love- Make time for them. I have gotten so busy recently and sometimes I find I lose track when I get as busy on where I am going and what is truly important to me. Am I really just doing doing doing or am I doing what is important?
TO Lade I say,
Thank you Lade for loving me. Thank you for seeing me and being there for me.
Rest in Peace my dearest friend. You are missed.
I love you. ~Haseena