A man I knew pretty well died suddenly last week. He was six years older than I am. We were not bosom buddies, we didn’t really see each other outside of the monthly meetings that we both attended, and what I knew about him mostly came from our periodic interactions. I first met him in 1975, when he called to tell me that I was going to become a member of a social organization of young men. I was surprised that he knew my name and eventually flattered that I was considered worthy. Even more, he suggested that I should become an officer in that organization and help recruit younger men like me. I accepted his offer, as if I had a choice, and benefited from the association. A few years later, as president of the group, I sent him an invitation to our annual event, something I did for all of the former presidents. He came, we chatted for a few minutes, and he told me how much he appreciated not being forgotten. I don’t think it occurred to me to thank him for being recognized by him those few years earlier.
In 2004, I was nominated by another organization to become a part of the leadership. It didn’t mean much, other than I would have to attend two meetings a month, 10 months out of the year, and if I was a responsible committee member then I stood a chance, in about twenty years, of becoming the Steward, or head man, of an organization founded in 1737. The Steward was my friend from the earlier years.
He was a good Steward, thoughtful, judicious, and completely committed to the organization and its goals. I learned much sitting at the table as we worked to manage and maintain our organization. When his five year terms expired, he joined the ranks of former Stewards who guided the organization.
At our last meeting, in March, we had a nice crowd for supper and the members seemed to want to linger, enjoying the company, the conversation, and the camaraderie. We happened to walk out at the same time, and we chatted quietly on the sidewalk. As I had done before, I reminded him of our intermingled path and how much his interventions meant to me. We laughed a little, shook hands, and went our separate ways.
Last Sunday he died. Suddenly, in the country, on some land he owned, doing what he most enjoyed in his life.
Tonight, I will attend our regular meeting and it will be the first meeting without him. It will be a profoundly sad event, but the organization will continue on, as it has for more than two hundred fifty years, thanks to men like my friend.
Now that he is gone, and as I have thought about his absence, I understand that he was, for me, a mentor. For whatever reason, he took a shine to this callow youth and gave me an opportunity. Not once, but twice. I was honored each time. I hope I can live up to his expectations.
I will miss him.