I got a call this morning from a good friend telling me that another good friend, John Michael Baugh, passed away a few days ago.
I met JM when I went to work for CyberClick Marketing. Shaved head, stocky build, inked up arms – if you didn’t know better, you’d think he fronted a Norwegian death metal band. In reality, he was one of the most soft-spoken, even-keeled men I knew.
I admired JM because he had things going on in his life that any one of which would have destroyed most people. His adopted son was critically ill, completely dependent on others, machines, and hospital stays. His son was also a victim of a few significant instances of malpractice, and JM was the victim of an insurance and healthcare system that seemed almost purposefully designed to make sure his life was hard.
That was just one thing. As long as I knew JM, it seemed like life never let up on him. It seemed like every day, something was seriously wrong at home, or his transportation, or some bill came due that put him in a financially precarious situation, or the “system” backhanded him, or some weird relational thing happened in his family, or someone who depended on him broke down, or one of eight million things. And in all that time, JM just took it as “life” and did the best he could.
Sure, like most of my friends, he had a cynical dark streak, but he faced a rather overwhelming sea of problems and, somewhere in his heart, just decided that the only thing you could do is take life on its own terms and just plow through the difficulties the best you could.
People who knew JM will probably remember his love of conspiracy theories, and if you’d been screwed by the system as much as JM had, you might be a bit of a conspiracy theorist, yourself. But I will always remember him as a man whose life was ten times harder than mine, and he just kept going in that matter-of-fact manner.
He thought of me as a good friend and made sure I knew it, keeping in touch with me and supporting me long after we went separate ways, workwise. Like everyone else, he had his flaws, but in many ways, he embodied several characteristics – strength, loyalty, simplicity, fortitude, and a sense of perspective – that I and others in modern American society could learn a lot from. I hope I can honor his memory by trying to exhibit those characteristics more in my own life.
I think he’d get a kick out of that.
“You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
You may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?
Same as it ever was.”