Lessons from a classmate’s death

August 24, 2021

Over the weekend, I learned that a classmate of mine had died. A really nice and real human being.

It wasn’t a recent death–it predated Covid by a couple of years, but I just found out about it. And he wasn’t someone I’d kept in touch with since high school graduation. Just someone I knew back then and had liked. His death was unexpected, and that’s all I know.

But several years before he passed, his life had intersected with mine out here in California –one of those strange and explicable things that happen to me every so often.

He’s not the first person from my class to have appeared in my current circle in an odd and wondrous way.

There’s always a story

Some of my classmates acknowledged him on social media with a little personal story. I thought about doing the same with this more current anecdote, but then, thought better of it. It’s always hard to explain the things that happen in my life to those back in my home town because there’s often a side story that is even stranger.

For example, who in a million years would believe that the president of my high school class would meet and fall in love with the woman who had been married to my brother for more than two decades? And that on the only occasion on which we spoke after graduation, when plans were in progress for a class reunion, he would ask me about her, as he had just begun dating her? Or that he would end up dying in a horrific accident on what used to be called the Dark Continent (because it was mysterious and largely unknown). And that years later, he would appear and talk for almost 40 minutes to another relative in a medium’s reading?

See what I mean?

But it’s the lessons from the story that count

I have a lesser story (but still strange) about the classmate who died. The story had hard lessons for me of a personal nature.

More important than that story, though, is the fact that he was a really nice guy. Authentic. Kind. Unassuming.

I believe his passing left a kindness void in the world around him. He was just a really nice guy. And that’s pretty high praise, in my book.

It’s highly unlikely he’d have thought that his death would have any impact on me at all. Or that I would remember that we had talked. But it did and I remember.

Isn’t it interesting how sometimes, what seems small and not very significant, takes on greater meaning as we age?

At 70, every death of someone I know who is my age makes me think about them, the meaning of their life for them and for me, and what I can learn from it.

Thanks to him, today I’m thinking about the following lessons:

Kindness matters.

What once connected us in what we believed to be deep and meaningful ways doesn’t necessarily connect us later. But sometimes, a connecting thread is found where we’d never thought it could exist.

Unkindness is a mortal sin.

Thank you, Chris. May you be flying high with all the other angels.
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10 comments on “Lessons from a classmate’s death
  1. Great lessons from a sad story.

  2. Beth Havey says:

    Beautiful and meaningful as always.

  3. Laurie Stone says:

    This post gave me goosebumps. As the years roll on, it’s hard not to look at those who have passed for inspiration and yes, cautionary tales.

  4. I just came back from a celebration of life for a colleague my same age. Even though I haven’t seen her in several years it was a shock to hear she was gone and I remember how special she was.

  5. Diane says:

    My Mom always said that ‘Life is stranger than fiction.’ She was SO right! I’m so sorry to hear about your friend, but happy to know that the legacy he left was a little strange and a lot kind.

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