These days, I expect to see something shocking when I log on to Facebook; someone’s political statement will offend, cursing will be prevalent, or the latest and greatest movie will be magically posted in my news feed. The last thing I expected to find tonight was a posting letting us know that we lost a classmate from high school.
He was 32. That’s not usually the age at which someone succombs to a liver disease. Nevertheless, there it was. He passed away yesterday. We didn’t exactly run in the same circles, but when your graduating class is less than 90 and your town has fewer than 3,500 inhabitants, there are very few people who don’t affect your life. His brother was friends with my brother, his parents were friends with my parents. And while we may not have hung out together much, I knew Matt and we spoke often enough. Often enough that I feel deeply saddened by his death.
“The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”
It’s not just the cold shock of peer-age mortality, although the shock hit like a splash of cold water in the morning. It’s the fact that someone who truly knew who he was is gone. Unlike so many in high school, Matt never cared about popularity or peer pressure. He was one of those guys who went his own way because he was comfortable with who he was. At an age when failing to get invited to a bonfire could ruin a weekend, I have to admit that I admired the ones like Matt who never seemed to care about where they stood, as long as they stood where they wanted.
I wasn’t as confident as that. I struggled to find my own self-confidence in my own personality until much later in life. It took a divorce and separation from friends and family by 10,000 miles for me to develop a knowledge of “me”. Matt, and several of those whom I would call his close friends in high school, never seemed to wonder about themselves in that respect. And I’ve come to appreciate that more than he could ever have known.
It’s the loss of someone who was truly unique that saddens me more than anything. Matt was unique in that he was Matt, and only he could have been Matt. He seemed to enjoy that. I respect that. And I am remiss that I never got a chance to tell him that at any class reunion. Before this year, I probably never would have, but if you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve made it a goal to tell people how they’ve impacted my life. Maybe I would have mentioned something like this to him should our paths ever have crossed. Maybe I wouldn’t have. I don’t know. All I know is that I will never have that opportunity, and the shame is that he should have known.
My prayers tonight are with Matt’s family, and his friends who knew him best.
Never let the sun go down without telling someone they matter. You never know if you’ll get another chance.
“While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet him behind the veil.”