I have been grieving for a month – grieving the loss of one of my best mates in university. Even though there are years between us, his death has still hit me very hard. Death brings many things, from the space left behind by the lost loved one, to the reflections that significant loss can bring.
Meeting at University
We met at the start of our first year in university. We had rooms a few meters apart and we introduced ourselves in those first few intense days. There were so many people to meet and there was mentally coming to the realisation that we were finally in university! For both Jim and I, university was a larger-than-life dream which seemed almost unattainable from our childhood vantage points. We had both been raised in low income families. No one in my family had ever gone to university and I would guess this was similar for him. We arrived idealistic and excited at the opportunities that lay ahead.
Our Shared Perspectives and Experience
I am not sure how we realised that we had so much in common, but perhaps it was because it was so easy to talk to each other. We both had a strong sense of justice, especially social justice. Seeing how those without power were manipulated at our university brought a shared sense of wrath – words weren’t necessary. We became very close.
Sharing Our Dreams
We both had many dreams for the future. Being young and idealistic has its benefits – especially when you are trying to get through university without money. Jim and I spoke of the lives we wanted. We both wanted to live in such a way that we were able to make positive impacts in the lives of others. Many late night study sessions were full of our hopes and dreams. He inspired me and I hope I did the same for him.
Going on with Life
Jim finished university two years before me and then he went out into the wide world. We kept in touch a bit – this was before the Internet was popular – but eventually we lost contact. Before losing contact, he was the best man at my wedding and he shared his news that he was getting married. I was studying in Mexico and months away from moving from North America to Australia (and then New Zealand), so I missed his wedding. We re-connected on Facebook around 2009 and it was as if there had been no pause in our relationship. Friendships can be like that.
Jim’s widow advised me that he had died of a heart attack. He had three young girls and a devoted wife. This news hit me hard. I am finally coming out the other side of this grief.
I have spent just over a month reflecting on Jim, his influence in my life and what all of this means to me now. We were young and optimistic together, so these memories allow me to not only reflect on Jim and our relationship, but also on my own life. We both wanted to help others and – in different ways – we allowed things in life to distract us from those dreams. If someone had told him that he would be dead at 52 and his professional dreams would not be reached, I know exactly how university Jim would have responded. He made so many sacrifices for his dreams. Of course many things went well – his lovely family, for example – but his career never really happened. This makes me reconsider my own dreams and how they have played out in life. In addition to sadness, I am also newly driven to become what I had imagined those late nights studying in cafes with my dear mate, Jim.
I will always remember your genuine smile. Your kind words and stability were what I needed when I first began university. You continue to be a model of how a man can overcome adversity. Thank you for all you have meant and continue to mean in my life. In some way, when I help others you will be helping them, too. Sleep, old friend!