Forgive me tonight friends as I take a very circular route to get to where I want to go. About thirty years ago, Christ is it really thirty years?! I woke up one morning and headed for the kitchen in my apartment and there was a bum sleeping on my couch. I looked at him, he opened his eyes and said, “who the hell are you?” I replied, “I live here, who the hell are you?!” He smiled, “I liver here too.” That’s how I met my friend Keith, over the last thirty years we’ve certainly had some adventures, he’s one of the few humans who can truly get me to misbehave.
Turned out Keith, who’d just been deported from England, was my roommate Dan’s best friend from high school back in Las Vegas. Dan, being one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, had told him he could live on our couch. We would all go on to be roommates for a while, friends for much longer.
They must have done some kind of standardized testing in fourth grade because in fifth grade a couple of students got split out for advanced math work. There were three, the first two were of no surprise, everyone knew they were the smart kids. Hell one would eventually end up literally being a brain surgeon. I was the third and it was the start of a friendship that has grown and lasted for nearly fifty years. It started with John teaching me how to play chess, getting me into comic books and would continue through me being the best man in his wedding. He lived in the country and I was a street kid living with a single mom in the city. So we were school friends and in some ways led very different lives. As we got into high school he was a nerd, did his smart kid school thing and went home, collected comics, read, went to movies. I was a chameleon, during the day in class I was a nerd, after school I played a varsity sports in all three seasons, at night and outside of school I was a juvenile delinquent street kid. But I collected comics and read and went to movies and in high school John and I bonded around our love of science fiction, Dr. Who, movies including seeing this crazy new movie Star Wars together in the theater. We would see the opening days of the first 6 Star Wars movies together in two different states and three different cities.
The other night the phone rang, it was Keith, I couldn’t answer and he immediately texted call me, I knew something was up. Keith’s had a really tough last year or so and I was dreading what might have happened. Something had happened and honestly it was something that hadn’t in any way crossed my mind, Dan was dead. He died on vacation in Maui, while in the surf, they’re still not sure what exactly happened, but he was gone.
The next night, I was scrolling through John’s Facebook page and noticed a comment from a relative expressing condolences. I messaged him immediately, his mom had died.
At my age, pushing sixty, all of my friend’s parents, and mine are at least in their eighties, so it’s not a huge surprise when one passes. Although, as those of you who have lost parents know, no matter how expected, it’s still never easy. And honestly, I don’t normally get too impacted by these losses, but this one is a little different. John’s mom was one of the singly kindest humans I’ve ever met. She was someone who always made you feel welcome in her home, all ways seemed genuinely concerned about your well-being, always made time for you. There was a definite shortage of people who treated me like that when I was younger, so it meant a lot to me.
My friend Dan was similarly a truly nice person. He was a flaming liberal with a huge heart and more than anything was an incredibly moral person. We say nice guys finish last, but that never applied to Dan, he was highly intelligent and an incredibly talented and successful criminal defense attorney who led advocacy for clients at a level that changed the very system he worked in for the better. His loss has devastated so many people I know, it’s utterly heart breaking to watch all of this go down.
There’s an expression and a song by Billy Joel, only the good die young. If it’s true, you’re likely all going to be stuck hearing from me for a very long time. Whenever really kind, good people pass young I’m always brought back to my first experience with a really kind soul dying around my age.
Bowling was an important part of my life when I was younger. I remember my very first strike, on lane one at Hendrick Hudson Lanes. I was reminded of it often, the locker I shared with my mom was next to lane one. I bowled with a guy named David March, he was a tall, skinny kid with red hair. He was also the nicest person I knew at that time, a truly sweet and kind kid. He got terminal cancer, wasted away and died.
These are where my thoughts are right now as I watch friends grieve, as I grieve.
And there is a message in all of this, and it’s the quote by the Buddha that accompanies the image on this post, we think we have time. You never know, my friend a healthy 55 year old man went into the surf as he’d done a hundred times before and suddenly he was just gone.
You know that person you’ve wanted to call forever, that thing you’ve wanted to see or do, that relationship you need to mend, just do it. I know, we hear this a lot, but we don’t do it, the trouble is, we think we have time. ~ Rev Kane