Editor’s note: David Eagle wrote this in response to Tom Fulks’ commentary about the death of Max Eagle, published in The Tribune on Oct. 7.
Max was a lot of things during 24 years of life (1992-2017). One label he would not have worn freely was “victim.”
Max lived on his own terms from breath one, minute one, day one. Mostly Max was a good and brilliant soul. My son had one true love — music. To be more specific, playing music through his guitar. Max followed the life of his idols: Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and all good buskers living and dead.
Max played street music for money throughout his young adult life. He lived and breathed the busking way from about 15 years old. Max was a self-identified “bum” and preferred the freedom that his wayward life offered. I remember the first $50 Max made on State Street in Santa Barbara. He was euphoric. Max found his passion performing in the streets for money.
I would have enjoyed my boy living a longer, and more stable existence. Given my son’s traumatic premature birth and months at Sierra Vista’s NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), I always considered every day with Max a genuine blessing.
Max was flawed for sure. Flawed beautifully to me, but not always appreciated by others. He was absolutely a loving and kind brother, son and friend until he died.
Max’s favorite busking song was “Creep” by Radiohead. Max really identified with the lyrics, although he never played the song when performing. Max was also ashamed of his voice. He loved to hear “Creep” performed in the streets by others, and he always marveled at each musician's interpretation. Max thought it ironic that so many musicians covered a song that Radiohead has openly chosen to avoid playing live.
Max and I met and talked in front of the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara the day before he died. We joked about “Creep” lyrics when I asked him if he believed that he was loved.
He said sheepishly, “But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo.”
I sighed back, “What the hell am I doing here?”
Of course he stated, “I don’t belong here.”
We both acknowledged the irony. I will always remember that last exchange with my son. I hated the song “Creep” when Max was alive, but now I like it fine.
Max became prematurely hopeless in his life due to regular methamphetamine use. Heroin may have dealt my son’s death blow, but methamphetamine use held Max’s mind hostage and slowly devoured his sense of self and others.
Max has two surviving brothers who are still grieving (ages 15 and 22). They remember a free spirit in their older brother and miss his energy and joy. Days after Max died beneath a bridge, I went to the exact spot where my son died, under a bright red spray — PATHOS.
A peaceful place tucked in a good neighborhood at the end of a quiet street. The sheriff’s report suggests that Max died so peacefully, “… He had a cigarette in one hand and a Bic cigarette lighter in the other. His thumb was on the button of the lighter.”
Even Max would appreciate the pathos in that moment as it stared back at his lifeless body. Robbed of his last smoke. Damn.
Life is not fair at all. Sidestepping the unfairness is never a satisfying solution. Using methamphetamine to avoid life only one time can rewire your entire personhood. You can lose yourself forever. If you have not tried meth DO NOT. If you use meth, STOP.
Getting off opioids is very difficult. Not at all impossible, though.
Using methamphetamine can forever ruin your mind and any hope of recovery. If you are using meth, think about this while you can.
Every parent deals with the deep loss of their child differently. Loss can be a terrible energy when not held thoughtfully. I will always love Max for exactly who he was and is to me. Never a victim. Always my sweet boy.
David Eagle has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and has worked with dual-diagnosis and psychotic populations. He lives in Santa Barbara with his 15- year-old son.