Goodbye, my colleague, my friend

I’m drinking red wine, which is not unusual, but tonight it is appropriately melancholy. One of my favorite colleagues passed away last night.

He was maybe 20, 25 years older than me, but we got along well. We were two of the few smokers on our campus, so we spent quite a bit of time together. He put in more than 40 years at our college, knew where all of the bodies were buried, and taught me a lot not just about campus politics but also about his field of study (his knowledge of which was vast).

He’d been retired for a couple of years, and I’d already been missing him. He’d also had a number of health issues, so this is not entirely unexpected. But now that he’s gone irrevocably, I’m...well, melancholy.

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The older I get, the more I hate death. What is it Lin-Manuel Miranda writes for Burr?

“Death doesn’t discriminate

Between the sinners and the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes

And we keep living anyway

We rise and we fall and we break

And we make our mistakes”

My sister and I lost our father when we were young teenagers. As a defense we learned to joke, to laugh at death, to push it away with humor. That was easy to do, even amid genuine sadness, when the dead were older-generation family members.

A colleague is different. He was a generation older, sure, but my relationship with him was not a family relationship. It was a collegial relationship. He happened to mentor me casually, but our relationship was not mentor-mentee. I respected and liked him, and I felt the he respected and liked me, too. Though we were not equals, we met as equals (academics know what I mean by that).

When friends and acquaintances of my own age have died, it’s been tragedy. 24, 27, 35, 47, so young to die! This is my first friend who has died an age-appropriate death (still too young, in my estimation, but given my family history I think that any time before 84 is too young, anything after is gravy).

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Ah, well. At least he doesn’t have to endure the politics of whatever it is that comes next. I think that that would kill him. Perhaps it did.

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