I'm not in the habit of writing obituaries or in memoriams, but an old friend passed away recently and I felt a special need to share it with all of you. You see, Bob and I had been good friends back in the day, but I hadn't seen much of him over the past few years. Ironically, I had been thinking about Bob over the holidays but I never bothered to pick up the phone. The last time we spoke a few months prior, he was outside his office downtown grabbing a smoke. Bob was just beaming as he told me of his son Henry's acceptance into a top- rated high school on the north side of Chicago. No easy feat with the highly competitive academic requirements. It was great to hear from him and to hear the genuine sound of joy in his voice at his son's accomplishment. And while we had grown apart over time, we nonetheless could still pick up a conversation as if it was just yesterday. It was especially sad for me to hear of Bob's passing, of course, because he had recently been in my thoughts.
At the funeral home there was no casket to view. Just the small but elegant wooden box holding his remains from cremation. I saw people I hadn't seen in a long time, we all sat close together upfront near the podium, right behind Henry and his mom, Anne. A group of Bob's co-workers were a few rows behind us. After his family said their goodbyes and told some funny anecdotes about Bob, his sister Alexandra faced the room and asked if anyone else would like to say a few words about Bob.
There was a long and somewhat awkward pause, so I got up and said a few kind words about how Bob had been such a good buddy for letting me crash at his place when I lost my keys during a night of misguided drinking. I felt like an idiot afterwards, with all the things I could have said. But following, many others paid their respects with consistent references to his generous nature, his kind character, and his devotion to being Henry's father. It turned out to be a really nice tribute for a guy who didn't have an easy life, battling severe physical issues, who somehow managed to pull it all together with the help of his family, friends, and co-workers. But most of all, it was Bob. He was the one who took on the challenge and met it head on. Nobody else.
So here's to you Bob, it really was great to know you and we are all proud to have been your friend.