**Jake is guest blogging today. Brace yourself. It’s long – with excerpts taken from a 60-page document he wrote last week — but worth your time, especially if you’re a “Starts with an X” follower.**
X frantically shook me in the middle of the night, begging me to wake up.
“BMuttz is calling you,” she said. It was 1:30 a.m. and I stared at my phone in fear and disbelief. Was he really calling? It couldn’t be. It must be an accident, I thought. It’s 4:30 a.m. where he is. …
Still barely awake, stunned, not knowing if I was dreaming, I let the call go to voicemail. Together X and I listened to the message, and sure enough, it was him. His voice sent chills down my body. He sounded strained and fragile, like it was taking every ounce of energy to speak.
BMuttz wanted to talk to me. He was telling me he loved me. He was telling me how sorry he was he wasn’t going to make it to my wedding. I started crying, it was too much, I couldn’t listen to the rest of the message. I hung up.
This was no dream. …
Now, more awake than ever and feeling an adrenaline rush, I ran downstairs and called BMuttz back. I knew this would be a phone call I would remember for the rest of my life. Earlier in the day, I received the dreaded phone call from his wife, L, who reluctantly told me doctors gave her husband a maximum of three months to live. BMuttz has been fighting cancer since early this year, and everything the doctors have thrown at the disease has been in vain.
The chemotherapy: failed. The radiation: failed. The pain medicine: failed. Doctors were unable to figure out exactly what type of cancer was killing him. And to make it worse, BMuttz was enduring pain only few can fathom. He was living in hell.
During his bout, we would speak via text a few times a week. But since his condition deteriorated, I haven’t heard from him in weeks.
My best friend and his wife haven’t caught a break since this ordeal began 11 months ago, and now BMuttz was given a timeline for when his days on earth would end. All of these thoughts raced through my mind as I dialed his number.
He picked up and the first thing that came out of my mouth was that I was so happy he called. Almost immediately, we both began sobbing. He spoke in phrases through tears. He sounded tired and medicated.
He told me he loved me. He told me how sorry he was that he wouldn’t be there when I say I do to X. He told me my parents were second parents to him. I hung on every word and spoke some of my own. I told him he was the best friend I could have ever asked for. I told him he will never be replaced. I told him our friends would take care of his wife.
“I’ll watch her from above,” he said.
Meanwhile, X had made her way to the bottom of the staircase leading to our family room where I was talking on the phone. She was crying uncontrollably.
As BMuttz and I were having what seemed like our last conversation, a montage of our friendship rushed through my head. There was that time at football camp where we cackled uncontrollably one night because I didn’t pack enough socks for the three-day camp and had sweat through all the ones I brought. By the end of the weekend, I would have sold my soul for a clean pair.
Or that time BMuttz and I got in a fight with some opponents playing intramural b-ball at MSU. Or the time we rode a limo to our senior prom. Or that time we got kicked out of math class and demoted to remedial math. Or that time he texted me that he was getting sworn in as a lawyer. I told him I was beaming like a proud parent. One of his proudest moments instantly became one of mine.
So many great memories, why was this happening to him?
He was my friend of 20 years, my best friend since the age of 18. We were supposed to watch each other grow old and bicker like a married couple while regaling about our youth as we sat back in rocking chairs. Our wives were supposed to become best friends, so were our children. Why was this happening to him?
As I snapped back to reality, I told BMuttz not to be scared. I repeated it. I told him I would come be at his side. He was slow to respond and seemed confused. During that 10-minute phone call, we each said I love you at least a few dozen times.
When we said goodbye, not knowing if it was goodbye forever, I completely broke down. It was the hardest I’ve ever cried. Still confused at how big and surreal the moment was, I wondered to X if BMuttz was moments away from passing away. I could not figure out why he called me so early.
I found out some of those answers only a few days later when I saw BMuttz myself. Here are some excerpts of my visit at BMuttz’s hospice in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Day 1: There he was in the hospital bed, immobile, bearded with a swollen face. He actually looked a little healthier than the last time I saw him because he put on some weight. Looks can be deceiving. When I arrived, L, his wife, was sitting on a pullout bed with her husband only a few feet away in a Craftmatic-type hospital bed.
He was somehow hooked up to three different pain medications. His wife could administer them with a push of a button. A beep indicated when the medicine hit his body. He was wearing a green Hurley shirt and University of Texas burnt-orange shorts. He wore brown-rimmed glasses, the type that makes people look smarter, suitable for a working professor, which he was until about six weeks ago. He looked beautiful to me. ….
BMuttz woke up when a nurse came into the room in order to give him some medication orally. She asked him to take the medicine. BMuttz responded: “I hate it.” It was funny, yet so damn sad. It wasn’t BMuttz’s only stint as a comedian that night. Earlier, during his first time awake, I said something I can’t recall and BMuttz said: “Let’s party.”
My fucking bro, there he was, immobile, depending on people like a child, on his deathbed, but still with a sense of humor. There are many lessons to be taken from BMuttz. God dammit, he’s a great person.
After BMuttz reluctantly took the nasty medicine that was mashed up in apple sauce, the nurse decided he had to be moved. You could actually see the fear in his eyes. For him, movement meant pain. The nurse called another nurse. It was a two-person job. They took the sheets off of him. His thighs were pasty-white and skinny. The lack of movement resulted in atrophy. Yet his face, hands and feet were swollen because of the medicine and steroids. It was like he was two people in one body: Fat guy, skinny guy.
After every movement and moan from pain, my eyes welled up and I got a lump in my throat. Here we go. Steady tears slid down both cheeks. L looked at me with sadness, but held it together. This was probably the billionth time she’d seen her husband in agony. The nurses each grabbed one end of a sheet that was already under BMuttz’s body. L and I grabbed the two other corners.
BMuttz was yelling. I grabbed his hand and told him to squeeze when he feels pain. He did. My heart broke right there. What was once taken for granted by BMuttz, movement, was now the most difficult chore.
It was intense seeing my best friend like that. I remember BMuttz as a three-sport athlete in high school. Now, he had the mobility of a paraplegic. God, it was tough. BMuttz was in pain. Here came the medicine ‑‑‑ Beeeeeeepppp. Three, two, one, goodnight BMuttz. …
Day 2: Going into day two I knew I had to cherish my time with BMuttz. This would most likely be the last time I saw him alive. Today, Nasa and Dave were expected to visit. We all planned on watching the MSU game in BMuttz’s hospice room. As uncharacteristic as it is for me, the game would be background chatter. It was all about BMuttz. ….
I knew day two would be tougher than the first. That became apparent when L picked me up from my hotel about 10:30 a.m. I opened the door to their new Subaru Forester, and she told me doctors had learned BMuttz had pneumonia. The next 72 hours were critical for him. Let’s hope the antibiotics work, she said. ….
Today I was more open about touching him. Almost right away, when we were alone, I went up to him and grabbed his hand. I told him I loved him and missed him. BMuttz was in a dead sleep. I turned on the TV and watched a college football pregame show. It would be about 30 minutes until MSU played Penn State for a share of the conference crown. This was MSU’s biggest game in decades and could cap an 11-1 year, an amazing achievement for MSU football.
The game didn’t mean shit. All I could think was, “I wish BMuttz was healthy enough to enjoy this year.”
BMuttz woke up and said hi to the crew. Well, he didn’t say hi, but he acknowledged we were in the room with his eyes.
We spent the next 90 minutes or so keeping BMuttz cool. Nasa and I would get wet towels and put them on his head and arms. He was running a fever of 101, still high, but better than the night before when his temperature reached 103.
L tried for at least 10 minutes to wake BMuttz up so she could feed him and make him drink water, but her attempts were unsuccessful. So, L started chewing ice cubes and cutting them with her teeth. She would fill BMuttz’s mouth with mashed up ice. It reminded Nasa and I of a mama bird feeding her baby bird. This was after she’d already used a suction device to remove the phlegm he was too weak to clear from his throat until a nearby pint-size cup was a quarter of the way full.
At one point, the guys left the room for some reason or another and I asked L if she was OK. She started crying and asked why they couldn’t catch a break. It’s been an impossible fight the entire way and now he had pneumonia? She said she wasn’t strong enough for this. I objected. To the contrary, I told her, she IS strong enough. God only makes people go through what they can handle. She said she wished God found someone else. Me too, I told her. We both kind of laughed.
By this time the game ended. MSU won 28-22 after almost blowing a huge lead. They were co-Big 10 champs. Again, I thought, “Man, BMuttz would love to see this.” ….
We were down to the last beers from the case Nasa and Dave brought with them. We spoke about getting food. It was time. The time we all dreaded. Time to say goodbye. L took a phone call and said she had to step out for a few minutes. I wondered if she did that on purpose because she knew we needed the time alone with him.
She was gone and it was just us four great friends saying goodbye forever. We had shared so many memories, beginning when we were 18. Just about a decade later and it was about to be over. It wasn’t fair.
We all huddled around BMuttz’s bed. I looked at Nasa and he was breaking down. He tried to stop the tears, but it was in vain. The big globs began pouring down his cheek. Oh shit, it started for me, too. Tears. Again with the tears. I took a few steps away from the bed and tried to compose myself. Nasa started stroking BMuttz’s arms and chest. He was asleep, like he was most the day. Nasa tried to wake him up. “No man, don’t,” I said. “He can hear us.” Nasa looked at me, amid the tears, and nodded his head OK.
Nasa started talking first. He told BMuttz although his time on earth was probably over, we would all see each other again. He told him not to be scared. I looked at Dave, and he was mostly quiet, suiting his personality. He stayed the most composed of us all. His eyes were blood shot and misty, but I don’t know if he cried. He told BMuttz he loved him.
I told BMuttz he was the best friend I ever had. And that he would never be replaced. Earlier in the day, when the guys stepped out of the room, I went up to him, grabbed his hand and told him I loved him. I told him not to feel bad about missing my wedding with X. I told him she loved him so much and that he knew right away she was the one for me. BMuttz seemed to wake up. He mumbled something incoherent. He was trying to talk to me. Whatever he was trying to tell me, it didn’t matter. It was a beautiful moment. Our friendship shone through again. Between that and our phone call, I told him everything I wanted him to know before he ventured into the afterlife.
I then kissed my right index and middle fingers and placed the kiss over his heart. My friendship with BMuttz as we once knew it was done, probably forever. But I was at peace.
I thought, while BMuttz had one foot at the pearly gates already, I hope he finds that peace before knocking on the door. L came into the room after a few minutes and saw we all had been crying. She began crying a little as we said our goodbyes. I can’t tell you how strong she has been. She’s a rock. She’s been such a devoted wife. BMuttz is lucky to have her. She was his guardian angel on earth. They’ll meet up again one day, I thought. ….
I wish I could say this story had a fairytale ending, but it doesn’t. BMuttz died on Nov. 28 on his hospice bed next to his wife, family and loved ones. I returned home to Las Vegas from a quick two-day visit earlier that day. He died only a few hours after I got home, just before midnight.
I’m at a loss for why he was taken from us, but have gained inspiration and courage from BMuttz’s battle with cancer. I’m still coming to grips that I won’t ever receive another text, e-mail or phone call. Through some forum, we were in touch every day. I can’t believe we won’t be seeing each other at least once a year.
However, I’m grateful I got 20 years with him. I was blessed to have known him. Billions of people never met him. I was one of the lucky few.
There should be no doubt that BMuttz fought that wretched disease with everything he had. He fought like a noble warrior and because of that I plan on honoring his memory by learning from him. I will not let the small stuff in this world get me down anymore. And if it’s not a life or death matter, everything is trivial. Problems on the job, dealing with assholes, money issues – none of that’s even worth wasting my breath. I know BMuttz gave his last breath in order for me, and others, to realize that life must be appreciated every day.
Thank you for that, Benjamin Ross Mutnick. I will never forget you. I know you’ll be at my wedding. You’re my best man. You always have been.
Cancer has taken many loved ones away from us. This was my first real blow from the disease, but I’m sure it won’t be my last. They never figured out what kind of cancer my best friend suffered from, either. At the request of the BMuttz family, anyone who is interested in fighting the disease and further honoring the memory of BMuttz can do so with a donation here: