About a two and a half years ago, I reconnected with Paxton Frombaugh, an old high school friend. As often happens, he and I had fallen out of touch after school, each going our separate ways in pursuit of our lives. We found one another again in August of 2015 through Facebook when some mutual friends reintroduced us and we began catching up again.
I won’t pretend that we struck up our old friendship like nothing had ever happened, or that we were just as close as we had once been. Like I said, we had both pursued other lives, and there was about a thirty year gap since we had last spent any time together. But the occasional chat session would remind me of how much fun he was back in the day, and he always brought a smile to my face. There was even a certain amount of nostalgia involved as I recalled our old weekend D&D sessions. (Yes, we were some of those people.)
And yes, this is the same Paxton that I named the leader of the Guard team after, in Pangaea: Exiles. Paxton, Pax, Peaceful… if you remember that character from Pangaea, that was him. He even chatted with me at one point about how much he loved that he finally got to be the “badass” that he’d never been in real life. If you knew how kind he really was, the idea of him ever being a badass might make you chuckle.
But I also knew he’d had some pretty serious health problems. He spoke of them publicly, so I’m not betraying any confidence when I mention that he had kidney disease. In November, he posted that he had some necrosis in the heel of his foot, but also mentioned that the doctors had assured him that it was under control, and that amputation wouldn’t be necessary.
Then the holidays came around, and he stopped posting. I never thought anything about it, assuming that he, like many of us, was just busy with the holidays and family. Then a friend of ours posted that she’d just heard Paxton was back in the hospital, and that they had been forced to amputate his leg, after all. Apparently the necrosis had spread, despite what he’d first been told. Worse, it had gotten all the way into his abdomen, and they didn’t expect him to live much longer than a few weeks. I was shocked, to say the least.
That was January 7th. A few hours later I went back to that same post to check his status. As I was reading, a new comment popped up letting everyone know that Paxton had just passed away at about three o’clock.
Rest well, Peaceful.
Then, just a few days ago, on January 15th, I found that one of the people who inspired me to get serious with my writing passed away unexpectedly. Justin Macumber also had kidney issues. He’d just recently gotten a kidney transplant, and most of us assumed that was good news. Unfortunately, his body rejected the transplant and he passed away.
Justin was the founder of the writing podcast, The Dead Robots’ Society. This podcast was what caused me to revisit my old love of writing, and get off my butt to actually do something with it. If you run a search through my blog here, you’ll see that Justin and the Dead Robots’ Society are mentioned pretty often.
And while he and I weren’t terribly close, I can indirectly attribute much of what little success I’ve had to him. For without Justin, there would have been no DRS Podcast. I wouldn’t have learned about the ins and outs of indie publishing… wouldn’t have received encouragement from him and the other “robots” back in the days when DRS had its own online forum… wouldn’t have enjoyed the friendship of even more fans when they closed the old forum in favor of a Facebook page that allowed them to reach an even larger audience.
When I think back on the online writing community I’ve come to embrace, there is so much of it that ties back to Justin. He inspired me, and so many others in the writing world. I know I told him a few times, and I saw occasional posts where others told him. I can only hope he truly understood it.
Goodbye, Justin. We’ll miss you.