Back when the first LOTR trilogy came out, I joined a free-form group of fans on a message board. The majority of these were Tolkien fans, following the development of the films. Like any community, contributors began to stand out. One of these was Nate. Nate was a geneticist turned bartender (wiling career choice) with an exhaustive knowledge of Tolkien and an open hand with questions. He was a gentlemen and a scholar and very generous with his time and knowledge on whatever subject. And over the years online, the group “virtually” supported him through his career change, through the forest fires that came practically up to his front door, through his engagement.
Now, if you think I’m full of piss and vinegar now, this is nothing compared to what I was like 14 years ago. (I was designated “board dragon,” that’s how difficult I was.) But Nate was one of those that could somehow get through the flames and get to the real, or at least reasonable, me. We got to be friends. We even spoke on the phone. (He was engaged and I was crazy so it was completely platonic.) I lived in L.A. at the time, he was in San Diego. We kept saying, “One of these days I’ll drive up/down and we’ll have dinner.”
And then I came online one day and found out that Nate had died of a fatal arrhythmia. No warning. He was only 30 and he dropped dead in the walk-in refrigerator at work.
And I spent a long time kicking myself for not getting in the car and driving those three hours to meet this guy, look him in the face when we talked, give him a hug.
And I swore I wouldn’t do that again. I would not miss an opportunity to meet a friend.
This morning I came into work to find a coworker had died in a car accident over the weekend.
Academic department staffs are usually very small, a team of two to four people (depending on the size and complexity of the department and programs). David was our IT guy (between GIS, terrestrial laser scanning, atmospheric sciences, etc. we have a lot of computers going in this department). David was quiet and good-natured, funny, hardworking, devoted to his siblings and parents. Seemed like an interesting guy, but we didn’t interact a lot. Like me, he had cut his degree short to go to work on campus and was completing it one class at a time. He was 24.
And that’s all I really knew about him.
And he worked twenty feet away from me for almost two years.
Now my unselfish-self sends prayers and wishes for his family and friends to find comfort during this dark time. But I’m not going to wax poetic about the fleeting nature of existence and how life is unfair. It is.
But goddamn it I should have taken the time to get to know him better. I should have walked over there and talked to him more.
So Caty (and Nell), I’m coming to visit. I don’t know how or when, but I’m definitely getting on a plane to come see you. And if I can ever get up the scratch, I’ll make it down to see you too Augie.