Trees against a purple night sky.
Photo by Ryan Hutton on Unsplash
When death interrupts life
My best friend from college died last week.
Dan came into my life at a low point when I felt friendless and lacking direction. I do not know if I would be where I am today without him.
When I knew that I had met my future wife, he was the first person I told. I remember it like it was yesterday, sitting on the porch of my parent’s beach house listening to the waves break through the darkness. He stood beside me at my wedding a little over a year later.
Dan loved history, the Red Sox, Springsteen, and film. He read voraciously including movie scripts and could recite whole scenes from Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, and more.
In college, he was my partner in crime writing an underground newspaper while attending a model Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., skewering the delegations at the conference including our own to cover our tracks.
Dan was a Renaissance man. A 2020 article in The Connecticut Post described him as “a flower shop owner and marketing specialist who has written for Bob Costas, Tim Russert and World Wrestling Entertainment.” When I am gone, I hope I will be remembered for having lived as eclectic and interesting a life and having lived it well.
It had been a few years since we last spoke. I did not know he was not well. I confess to relying too much on social media to keep up with old friends, and Dan was a private person who posted infrequently.
Dan’s death was sudden and shocking to me like the death of my mother following a cycling accident. A day or so after she died, I found the last load of laundry she had washed still waiting in the machine. Hanging it to dry on the clothesline behind her house did not feel like doing the laundry. It was more liturgical than that. Like taking communion.
Death interrupts life in sometimes shockingly abrupt ways and our hearts fall within us. But grace also interrupts the ordinary in extraordinary ways. In such moments we are caught off guard, not expecting the goodness and sorrow that brush past us.
Suddenly or not death waits for us all. More than ever, I feel what Martin Luther King Jr. termed “the fierce urgency of now” and the wisdom that comes from numbering my days. As Jesus said, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” (John 9:4)
Last week I was at Converse University in Spartanburg, South Carolina leading a youth mission trip for my church. Hours after learning of Dan’s death, exhausted from the news and the fullness of the day, I stood alone on the quad and felt “the innumerable silences of stars” as T.E. Lawrence so eloquently described the night sky.
Like those waves meeting the shore years ago, I heard the Psalmist’s question break in my ears, “What are humans that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:4) And this answer also, “Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:5)
God is mindful of Dan, and me, and you—crowned with glory and honor all.
Rest in peace, Dan. Rise in glory.