My friend died yesterday. Those words have been running through my head all day and yet writing them here seems so final, so definite. When I heard the news it was like in high school when you're confronted with a complex story problem. Sure, you know all words but somehow, presented in just that order, it doesn't make sense. My hand flew to my mouth in a protective measure although I'm not sure how I could have found that protective. As though anything can protect you from the pain of losing someone close to you.
I've known Dan for fourteen years. I knew Dan before I was married, before I had kids. I met Dan when he only had two boys before the birth of his beloved little girl. Dan was the type of man that everyone loved, that everyone wanted to be around. He was a good, GOOD man. I truly don't know if I've met a better man. He was always up for a laugh or a joke, always willing to poke fun at himself and laugh at the irony of a half Japanese man eating ten cent Ramen for lunch.
I can still picture the way the apples of cheeks flushed red and lifted right up to his eyes when he laughed. Or how his eyes crinkled and his smile lit an entire room.
As a man so focused and determined, he was never afraid to laugh at himself or take himself too seriously. Dan was the man who would dress up as a pimp or a pirate at Halloween. He was the one wielding the fart machine at the company Christmas gift exchange. Watch out when you sat down in the chair to open your gift. The present wouldn't be your only surprise.
Dan was always up for a chat and, in the first office by the back door, he was the first person I saw every morning and the last person I saw when I walked out in the evening. Dan was a constant in our office and even though his office is now dark, he'll always be with us.
My mind has been consumed over the last 24 hours with the things Dan will miss; walking his daughter down the aisle to shake hands with her nervous groom, watching his beloved boys graduate from college; holding his grandbabies. But, more important than the things he won't do, are the things he did do. The beautiful children he and his wife raised, the lifelong friendships that were nurtured through all of life's changes. The friends and family, near and far who will cherish the place he held in their lives. There's no one who met Dan who wasn't changed by him. His goofy, quirky, silly nature is something that we'll all miss.
Good night, my dear friend. I hope, in your final moments, you felt how loved you are, and how deeply you will be missed. And I hope you're looking down on us and smiling your good-natured smile and laughing your infectious laugh. Soon enough, our pain will fade and I promise you, we'll be laughing right along with you. Love you, Dan-o.