There is an uncertain brevity to life that has been driven home over the past week or so in the cruelest of ways. In that time, two of the best people I ever spent time with in student media died, as they say, unexpectedly. Sandwiched in between these two deaths was the death of a best friend’s father, a man whose son gave me my first job in student media.
Tributes to Dave Black, Mike Sansone and Kelley Lash have flowed forth freely, as they touched so many lives in so many important ways that any attempt I make to encapsulate them would be like catching a rainstorm in a Dixie cup. Those of us who knew any of them are working at those various stages of grief that all the books tell us exist, and yet that knowledge does not ease our pain.
At times like these, we offer tribute, tell tales and honor the memories they gave us. We reflect on the realization that these people will not be with us any more, as we fumble for the right words and struggle to find meaning in this situation. We find our own sense of mortality inching a bit further up in our own minds and we ponder the marks in the ledger of life that we have made to this point.
How do we move forward, despite our desperate desire to reach back to before these unforeseen events occurred and do something, anything, that would connect us to these people we’ve lost just one more time?
If I am to be honest, time itself serves as the best eraser, eliminating certain items and allowing others to overwrite them until all that remains is shadow of what once was. That temporal distance allows us to continue, lest we cling to moments, events and people we can never get back. It is the usual way of progress, and yet one that offers us the least value.
I have often said that the best parts of me are reflected in my students, the seeds I plant through education and watch grow in the field of life. What I have found in reflecting on Dave, Mike and Kelley is that what allowed me to become who I am came from the best parts of people like them. What they gave to me, they gave of themselves, all in the course of just being who they were. They didn’t do it for praise or an honor, never once seeking recompense for sharing such valuable treasures.
In pressing forward this time, I would like to think that the best way to hold fast to the goodness these people imbued in me is to try harder to be what they were to me for other people.
Humor, kindness, honesty, care, decency, fairness and more exuded through a greeting, a hug, a laugh, a barb, a note, a smile and so much more. Above all else, they reinforced the importance of effort, the value in trying, the desire to help others.
Lives well lived that inspire so many of us to keep living well.