On Friday I found out that an old school friend of mine died. Its been turning around in my head for the last few days. He was 36 years old. He had two children and his wife was pregnant with their third. He coached soccer. He started a non-profit organization to help disadvantaged, neglected, and troubled youths in his community. He was a really good person. And not just on paper. I hadn't seen him in years, in fact, practically decades. But I don't expect that he changed much from the person he was at the age of 19, from what it sounds like.
He was from Nigeria and we met at my boarding school in New Mexico. He was one of those people who just feel really solid, very sure of themselves. And obviously he did know what he wanted to do in life because he had already accomplished so much- a successful business and a family. It makes me wonder what things he would have done if he had been given an entire life to live instead of half of one.
I knew that he had gone to university in California but was surprised that he hadn't gone back to Nigeria ever. I suppose his life was a bit like mine- you start on one path, thinking that it is just a bit of an adventure but somehow it meanders off in a direction entirely different than the one you had imagined, especially once you get married and have children. Also, he was so young that maybe it was part of the plan but he never had a chance to get back. He apparently died of a rare form of liver cancer after a very short battle.
Maybe this doesn't seem like a big deal after spending the last week and a half watching the death toll mount in Haiti. Its true that the horrible images that you see on the television make you almost say that someone like Emeke was one of the lucky ones, to die cleanly- in a hospital with his family nearby, no doubt. But Haiti was a place where life was fragile. My brother had gone last year with a friend to give money to help set up a oil refinery. He described the places he had visited and the people he had seen and it made you wonder how anyone managed to stay alive- and this was before they suffered from a cataclysmic natural disaster.
Emeke, on the other hand, was solid. He was a big, strong athelete. His beliefs were set in stone. I can imagine thousands of people dying in Haiti. I can't imagine a disease big enough to take out my friend.
Maybe its just a very narcisstic thing. Emeke was part of my youth, my life. I feel like my life is still just getting started. I've not hardly started on the things that I am supposed to be doing. So how can a piece of me, of my life, already be dead? I suppose it makes me feel like the clock is ticking when I've been wasting my time saying, 'Life is long and there will be many different chapters to live so enjoy this one before the next one starts.'
Maybe I've got it all backwards.