Friday, February 20, 2009

Honoring a friend

I lost a friend this week for the 2nd time.
It's hard when you find out that someone close to you is gone forever. But it's even harder when it is someone you lost due to a falling-out that was so many years back it doesn't really matter anymore. Such is the case with my friend Matt.

Why is it that we take for granted people we care about until they're gone, and only then we regret we didn't try harder to be a better friend, father, son, daughter, or companion?

Matt died on Tuesday, after suffering a massive heart attack, I was told. This news came as a result of a mutual friend, whom I had lost contact with years back. Over the years, I've idly searched for Matt, but he's not the sort to leave a digital footprint like some of us, so eventually I gave up. I tried emailing some people we both knew in our youth, but people either did not reply, or said they too had lost touch with him. So, when this email came, through LinkedIn I was surprised to say the least. And so a double-shock was to come.

Along with the email, telling me Matt was near death, was the double-whammy. Matt had been living just a few miles away from me for the past few years! Neither of us apparently were aware of this. And now, one of us would never know.

For many years Matt was my "best friend" in every sense of the word. We were inseparable, like brothers, during the formative years of our youth (the ages of 12 - 16). We had a sort of adversarial friendship. It was like sparring. You would argue a point sometimes just for the sake of tuning your own debating skill. For us, the many deep conversations we had of this type resulted in looking at life more deeply. Of course, we liked to have fun, like most kids do, and we got into our share of mischief. Matt was the direct in-your-face type, who was quick to make friends. I was the shy creative type who was more comfortable living in my own shell.

Often, my biggest obstacle was myself, and Matt had a way of getting to the bottom of things, and making me see what was wrong, and facing it head-on. At that age, the problem was usually shyness around girls. I guess his rushing-bull approach to situations was tempered by my slow methodical one.

Matt was quick to admit his own flaws and insecurities too. He knew he was no saint, but nobody was, and if they let on that they were, they were only faking it, which was worse.

Then we drifted apart somewhat in the later days of high school, and then had a falling-out in early adulthood, which I think we both regret not patching up later. He apparently spent time in New York, and somehow settled most recently in Texas, as I said, just miles away from me.

His departure has left me wishing I had tried harder to find him. But the realization that he actually is gone has me, in the present moment, thinking about those who are still here.

Do we do enough to let the people who matter to us know that we love them? Maybe we should.


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