Monday, July 1, 2013

Missing Dan

I hadn’t been in close contact with Dan since college, and I now suddenly realize just how long that’s been. Nearly all of my memories of him are from high school when we overlapped for three years. When he entered as a freshman, I’m pretty sure the first thing everyone noticed about him was, “Wow this kid can run!” It didn’t take long to see that he was an exceptional teammate with a radiant personality. In short, he was someone everyone loved being around.

Dan passed away last week of a rare form of cancer at age 37. The warnings in recent weeks that his condition wasn’t improving hasn’t made the news any easier to take. In some ways I feel I have no right to this post or to comment at all. It’s not that we grew apart in our 20s – better said that we simply found ourselves on different paths. I always thought that one day those paths might intersect again if we ever found ourselves in the same place.

His passing is a shock in so many ways. I can’t seem to let go of how unfair life can be. This was a guy with an incredibly positive spirit, good heart, and as tough a mettle as anyone I’ve known. Like I said, we were no longer very close, but I am certain that in these ways he never changed. He should have lived to be 100.

Danny, as we all called him then, never saw a challenge he couldn’t take on. Even in the rare cases where he was outmatched, he gave his all. In track meets he dabbled in hurdles and shot-put even though he was one of the shortest guys on the team. He was one of the smartest people I hung out with, but never once showed it off – an extremely rare type of humility where I grew up. He would often playfully obsess about trivial minutiae, successfully convincing everyone that, for instance, the team glider we won playing skee ball at Chuck E Cheese was something to be cherished forever. And he was a confidant who would listen to anyone’s worries. I know it’s cliché, but I really cannot believe he’s gone.

Throughout the last week, waves of memories are coming back to me as if they just happened. In all of them, Danny’s just being himself. I don’t often think about my high school days, perhaps because I often didn’t like who I was or how I carried myself at that point in life. I can say quite confidently that whenever I was around him, I liked myself a lot. He brought out the best in me before I had any idea what that was going to be. That’s why and how I always want to remember him. And why I feel so much sadness for someone I didn’t even know how much I missed.

Dan is on the bottom right and was our #1.

A cancer research fund has been set up in Dan’s name and can be accessed here in case you would like to donate.

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