An ode to my friend

Editor’s Note: Information currently circulating on the web regarding Adam’s death is inaccurate and the text written here has been taken out of context for self-serving purposes elsewhere. Adam’s cause of death was a heart attack, despite what any other posts may speculate. It deeply saddens me that his death is being used to hurt the reputation of others and is based on misinformation. I stand by my statements and the report from the hospital.

The first thing I notice about Adam are his powder blue eyes. A gorgeous blue. And, as I get to know more about him, those eyes become one of the most powerful things about him.


Because of the things he’s seen. After living in Thailand for more than eight years, teaching himself Thai and embedding himself into inner circles of circles I don’t know that I could ever be a part of, his eyes not only tell his story, but so does his work as a filmmaker.

The thing about Adam? He lives his passion. Day in and day out, he is found upstairs in our office, in front of the computer, editing, perfecting, piecing together hours upon hours of footage documenting brutality, love and more, and he does so with a smile on his face.

“Don’t ever let them know how you feel,” he tells me one hot afternoon as we talk outside. “You can never let anyone catch on if you are against what they believe.”

I nod in agreement.

“But … these people you meet … how do you hide your disgust for what they do?” I ask, looking for an answer.

“I am not disgusted by them,” he says, inhaling a drag of his cigarette. “I get to know them, I learn about them. They don’t do what they do because they have no hearts. They do what they do because they have no choice. It is their lives. It is what they know. They don’t have farangs sitting there, judging them and telling them to do something different.”

With that, I am silenced. And, with that, my mind is open.

Throughout the months we spend together, traveling, working together, I begin to understand what he means. And I begin to see the beauty in people I didn’t think could have any.

Adam stands in the background filming the rescue of Lucky in February.
Adam stands in the background filming the rescue of Lucky in February.

I love poking my head into the media office. I love joking with him and his team.

After awhile, I even can imitate Adam’s laughs … an airy “he he he” that comes from the belly but lights up the whole face.

There are times with Adam where I feel like I have known him longer than the months I have been in Thailand.

I lament about things in my life and he advises me to just ignore them, to go about my business. And, I take it to heart. Eventually, I get comfortable enough with him to even solicit guy advice, which he gives with a smile on his face.

“I’m good at this,” he says over a Chang. “I can help.”

When we go to rescue the elephants in Cambodia, there are signs. But, no one notices.

As we sit under a makeshift pavilion, he complains of his ankles being swollen.

“You should get that checked,” I advise.

“Yeah, yeah, I will when we get back to Chiang Mai,” he says, waving the suggestion off as he limps towards our van.

Then, over the next few months, more signs.

“I’ve been coughing up blood lately,” he says over a cigarette. “I need to stop smoking. My lungs hurt.”

He even leaves one morning to go to the doctor, but decides to return to the office because the line is too long.

“I have too much to do for work, I don’t want to wait in line for this,” he says, brushing off the urgency.

The night he leaves for  two-week trip, he stops at my housewarming party for a couple of drinks, then he heads to the bus station.

But, not before trying to convince me to let my cat, Penelope, become an outdoor cat.

“Animals belong in the wild, Diana,” he says, scooping her little body into his arms. “She needs to be free.”

“I don’t want her outside, what if she gets killed?”

“Then, that is life. That is how it goes,” he says. “Animals in the wild … I’ve seen it … they are just happier.”

I give him a hug goodbye, wish him safe travels and tell him I will see him soon.

Only, I never will.

Five days later, on April 3, I walk into the office.

Lek is sitting at her desk looking troubled.

“Diana,” she says, looking up at me. “Adam died.”

I freeze.

“What?” I ask, running through a possible list of Adam’s I could know.

“Adam,” she says, then repeats his last name to me.

No. No. No.

I slide into one of the cat-scratched black chairs at her desk.

“What?” I ask again, my body crumpling. My head falling into my hands.

I can’t believe it. He was fine.

“He died this morning. His girlfriend called me at 5 a.m.”

I sit there. I can feel the tears gushing from my eyes but cannot move. Everything turns surreal. Lek gets up from around her desk and puts her arms around me.

The tears fall.

I fell … numb. I fell like I am in a movie and the camera is circling around me.

This is not real. This is not real life. He was fine. He was fine. He was fine.

Then, she begins to explain to me what happened.

He was at his girlfriend’s in Surin and couldn’t breathe. He went to the hospital. She spoke with him last night. She told him he wasn’t going to die.

Then, this morning, he did.

“Shit. Fuck. Shit. Oh my god,” I say over and over and over again, until the words lose their meaning and are swallowed up by my sobs.

My friend. Gone. Like that.

Heart attack. Girlfriend at his side. At the age of 42. 

“I can’t believe it,” I whisper over and over.

I stand up and walk outside to see his co-worker, Ter. I sob.

“I’m sorry,” I say softly. “I know I shouldn’t be showing my emotions … but it is Adam …” and then I cannot speak anymore.

When he goes inside, I sit on the steps, put my head in my legs and sob like I haven’t sobbed in a long time.

This goes on intermittently throughout the day, as the realizations slap me in the face over and over that I won’t be seeing him again. I won’t be laughing with him again. I won’t be rescuing an elephant with him again. I won’t be sitting next to him on a plane again. I won’t be stealing him for advise again. I won’t be doing anything. He’s gone. And he won’t be walking through that door again, clad in a plaid or striped shirt, blue eyes glowing.

I leave work early. The hysterical intermittent sobs finally doing damage to my head and causing me so much pain I can barely open my eyes. I stop at Paula’s and fall into her hug, sobbing more. Then, I go home and crawl into bed, staring at the dark wood walls of my room.

My friend. He’s gone.

Later in the night, my friend invites me to his bar to get out of the house. I leave my place and begin walking. I can feel my eyes swollen to the point of closure. I can imagine my face as I walk, void of emotion. Exhausted. It takes me back to when my grandma passed away in Croatia. That numb feeling, having a song on repeat in my head.

I’m not even here. I am nowhere in this moment. I am numb.

When I wake up in the morning, I can’t even open my eyes because they are stuck together from crying in my dreams. And, when I get to work, I find out the truth about what happened.

Blood poisoning from a cut he obtained leaving my party, which caused his body to go septic, which led to a heart attack. Plus, a massive blood clot.

I think back to Cambodia. I think back to the coughing up blood. I think back to every moment I had with him. My heart breaks all over again.

However, there is one thing that is getting me through this: he lived his life. He lived his life with passion. With love. He did exactly what he wished. And, he had so many people who cared about him. Even on bad days, you would never know because his smile, his sparkling blue eyes, they’d ease you into a calm you didn’t think you could have. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Today, I remember him as a dear friend. An animal rights activist. A vegetarian. A lover of Thai whisky. And my good friend. And, tonight and tomorrow, when I pay my last respects to him, I will treasure every moment I spent with him that much more.

I will miss you forever, Adam. Thank you for touching my life and being a part of it.

Published by dtravelsround

Awakening the soul while traveling ... a story of being on the cusp of adulthood.

16 thoughts on “An ode to my friend

  1. Ah Diana, I am so sorry. As I sit reading your beautiful post about this amazing man, I find myself grieving that I will never get to meet him, that the world has been robbed of such a generous soul at a time when we so desperately need as many as we can get. Sending you all hugs and love.


  2. Losing a friend is one of the hardest things in life. I always feel like I’m supposed to learn something but I’m never sure what – I guess to appreciate the time I did get to have with that person. Glad you met someone who touched you and taught you something, love.


  3. Oh Diana, I am so sorry. It’s always hard to deal with death but even worse when it’s the unexpected death of a young friend. You have paid tribute to him beautifully.


  4. I’m so sorry to hear about this huge loss for the elephant-advocate community and all those who he touched. This is a beautifully written tribute.


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