I lost a good friend of mine today.
Robert Theron Dunn – Theron to most of us – died of complications due to septic shock resulting from a tear in the stomach lining. Theron was a fighter, and he outlasted the prognostications of the doctors for several days. However, in the end, his body gave out.
May he rest in peace.
Theron and I became close friends here in Saudi Arabia. As co-workers, we met my first day on the job, and he became my unselfish guide as I adjusted to life in a foreign and exotic land far from my home and those I love. For the first two weeks, I rode to and from work with Theron as I waited for a car to become available. He lived in the apartment building next to mine, and he invited me to accompany him to the grocery store, book stores, and provided me a car tour of Riyadh.
We discovered that we had a lot in common. We were both Native Californians, and we’d both spent huge chunks of our lives living in Southern California. We were both ex-Military, and we both were writers. Both Theron and I loved reading, especially Science Fiction and Fantasy – I turned him into a Battlestar Galactica junkie. We diverged politically, but we respected each other’s opinions.
The measure of a man is not in the nice words folks say about them after they die. Rather, you know the truth of a person by the incidents in their lives. So, I’ll tell you a story about Theron that I think exemplifies just what kind of friend he was.
Both Theron and I adopted cats while here in Riyadh. He rescued his cat, Afwan, from a group of kids tormenting the kitten. I got my cat, Shakira, from a co-worker returning to the States. Both of us developed very strong bonds with our animals. Eight thousand miles away from home – the cats were the warm-blooded creatures who met us at the door when we returned to our apartments at the end of the day.
Over the course of time, Theron joined me to watch some TV shows my wife recorded and sent to me. He and Shakira developed a love-hate relationship where the two of them liked to tease each other mercilessly. They both gave as good as they got. Theron was at my apartment the evening I discovered Shakira was ill with the melamene poisoning that would kill her. Her illness and death shook him nearly as much as it shook me.
I let him know that she’d died and that I planned to bury her because I simply couldn’t toss her into a dumpster and walk away. There being no cremation facilities for pets, I didn’t have a lot of choices. Theron understood completely, and he told me to wait until he returned from work. He would go with me, and he wanted to say his own goodbyes.
I had no idea where to take Shakira’s body, and it was Theron who suggested a grove of palm trees near the compound in which she’d been born and had grown up. The place was protected from other animals by an interchange circle, and it was unlikely anyone or anything would disturb the grave. So, together, we made our way down the embankment with Shakira’s wrapped up body and a shovel. We scouted around and settled on a spot. I started digging. I got the hole to the depth necessary, and he insisted on taking the shovel and finishing up the hole. Once finished, we completed the burial, including finding a bunch of rocks to lay atop the grave. Several days later, he went back down and took some photos of the grave and gave them to me.
That’s the kind of friend he was – always willing to help in whatever way possible.
Theron Dunn was a good man. I, along with a host of others, will miss him.