Yesterday I got the news that a college classmate of mine had passed away. I hadn't seen him since graduation. Somehow you think the friends of your youth are always there, hovering on the outskirts of your life. Until they aren't.
In college he was part of my group of friends. We played in a woodwind quintet together for all four years. We ate lots of our meals together in the dorm. A group of about six or eight of us would go out for ice cream occasionally. It was a small school so we were in quite a few classes together.
After graduation, I moved to Chicago to go to grad school. He stayed on an extra year to get a masters, then moved home to Syracuse. This was 40 years ago when the way you stayed in touch with your friends was by writing letters and maybe the occasional phone call. Lots of friends fell by the wayside as letters went unanswered in our busy lives.
I went to my 16th class reunion (it's a small school so they lumped 15, 16 and 17 together) and reconnected with a number of classmates, but he wasn't there. I heard that he was teaching music in the Syracuse schools.
When social media became popular with the general population, I looked for him, but he wasn't a social media type.
Then yesterday another classmate emailed me that he had seen, on Facebook, that our friend had passed away after a battle with cancer. I read online that he had had a long career teaching music in Syracuse, that he was a beloved and inspiring teacher, married with two sons. Our classmates remember him as being kind, never one to put himself forward, great sense of humor, and a wonderful collaborative musician. Former students praised his patience, kindness, and dedication to his students. He inspired others to be their best.
A full life, a beautiful life.