Recently, I received closure on a 26-year-old mystery. I’ll get right to the point. In elementary school a very close friend of mine had disappeared and I never knew what happened to him. He lived in my neighborhood and I remember going to his house one day after not seeing or hearing from him since the new school year, 6th grade had begun. His house was empty. His family had moved out. I told my parents and they did not have the ways that we have today to track someone, or information on someone, down. My memories of this are kind of foggy given the amount of time that passed. Maybe my parents did not take my comments too seriously as friends come and go, especially when kids start a new school.
This came to light when I was added to the Facebook page of my upcoming 20-year high school reunion. The thread was of my classmates discussing if there should be something added for those that were in our class but had passed away. This is when I saw Jason’s name. I immediately contacted Kasha, the person that had asked about adding him as he would have graduated with our class. While I often have had issues with Facebook, it served a great purpose as I was able to speak with Kasha who told me that he was in one of her classes and confided in her that he was diagnosed with cancer and had some tests pending. Shortly thereafter, he did not return to school and their teacher announced that he had passed away.
I was so moved by her words about Jason, that he was kind and sweet to her when middle school was not always that type of environment. I love that she remembered him from so long ago and thought that he should be added in a memorial to honor those in our class that have left this earth. If she hadn’t, I would never have known. Thank you Kasha, thank you Facebook.
While it is devastating to find that he had to endure something as awful as cancer, and died at such a young age, I was relieved to know. I had never forgotten him and in 26 years I was happy that Kasha, whom I had not talked to since high school, thought to remember him and had such fond memories of Jason. It also reminded me of what a kind and thoughtful person Kasha is.
Since I found out 3 weeks ago, I have not stopped thinking about my childhood friend. So this had to be written as I never forgot about him in all that time and never want to. I have 3 sons of my own right now and it makes me think about how fragile life is. Kasha and I speculated that maybe after his death, Jason’s parents could not bear to live there anymore. I’ve searched the Google machine and obituaries from that time. I’ve searched my photo albums and came up with nothing, all I have is the memory of what he looked like and more importantly, who he was; who he was to me.
I wish I could have been there for him. I can’t remember why I was not in contact with him enough at the point he went through this awful disease. I wish I had more memories of him. I wish I had classes with him when we entered middle school. I wish I could let his parents know that he had such a positive impact on my life. I can’t do any of those things. What I can do is continue to remember him.
While initially I was sad, I was very happy that I wasn’t the only one to remember him. Kasha and I were friends in high school and it just reminded me what a great person she was to ask to add him to the memorial. If she hadn’t, like I said, I would never have known.
I was afraid of this coming off as self-serving. That is not at all the case. I’m still in astonishment about the loss of Jason and now 26 years later, I am in mourning. I never want to forget him. Even though many memories fade, we don’t have to let them.
I’ve always felt that age is just a number, but really as we age, death inevitably, beckons. I’m in no way a doomsday-sayer, and even at 37 years old, I feel I am young, my kids may say otherwise. I am a very positive person and love life but I hope we can all remember what makes us laugh, love and live, especially in those that have touched our lives, living or not.
Last year, I lost a friend Brian, who was a good friend after high school when we were stupid kids and it had been 6 months since we spoke when I heard the news. I also lost a friend; a man who was the closest I’ve ever had to a mentor, Quincy. I also lost a distant cousin that I never knew Sarah. I don’t live with much regret but wish I could have had stronger relationships with them. At the time of their deaths, we hadn’t been close and that is painful but I vow never to forget them. I vow to cherish that much more, the friendships and relationships that are important to my life now.
We all will handle death differently but it’s more important to value life and the lives of those that love us and that we love, whether they are with us today or not.