The Thank-you I never got to say

Facebook is something that is both great and awful in many ways. It is great because it puts in touch with friends (old and new), family, and people that you kind of new but don't necessarily dislike so don't mind simply "being their friend". I love getting in touch with old friends and catching up on their lives. I find it fascinating to see how/what they are doing. I also love the simple way you can now stay connected with birthday wishes, reading their notes, and just getting hourly updates on what they are doing at the moment you log on. On the other hand sometimes those thoughts remind you of some that you thought you buried a long time ago. I thought long and hard about whether I would even go "there" on my blog since so many have already done so much of a better job "remembering" and then I realized that I have NEVER told anyone about a person and a situation that changed me. So unless you knew me in high school or are part of my immediate family you have no idea what I am talking about.

High school was not a bright part of my life. I had friends, I did ok in school, and I for the most part stayed out of trouble. I was not into sports and no other extra curricular activities except debate and forensics. I loved debate. I found out that I was a competitor by nature and that I had a gift of gab. I enjoyed the research, the hob knobbing, and kicking the crap out of other teams. Debate is not a stand alone activity..you have a team and most importantly you have a colleague. My colleague was Nik. We were nothing a like. He was popular, had money, was an only child, and much smarter than me (but not a better debater). We made a good team. Our coach had decided from day one that we were a good fit. Judges like the guy/girl combo (guys goof off and two girls just seem to get too bitchy). We were not the best team out there by far but we medaled several times and qualified for state. We were both heat broken that we didn't qualify for nationals but both felt confident we could make it one last time in forensics that spring. We spent a lot of time on the bus, at school, at our homes, at camp, and at tournaments. We went to Baltimore together for Nationals and had a blast. He was one of those all around good guys that everyone just liked. We drove each other crazy, laughed a lot, and had what at 18 some would consider "deep" conversations about life, politics, and religion...and always always coffee and P & A. He even helped me on Christmas Eve use my new espresso machine that I had no idea what to do with. We were friends...not best friends..but friends..and debate colleagues.

Our senior year Nik and I were tournament chairs for our forensics tournament that is always scheduled the first weekend of the season. We had stayed after school briefly to work on judges lists on Feb 1, 1999 and said "see you tomorrow". That night I got a call that Nik had killed himself. To this day I am still not really sure what happened or why it all happened. Over the years I have convinced myself that there were signs that we all missed and then I convince myself that there were no signs. Finally I realize it doesn't matter.

Two weeks later I heard a gun go off next door and saw the cops and an ambulance pull up moments afterwards. My neighbor's son had shot himself. It took me a while to lose the fear that everyone was going to die. I know that eventually everyone is going to die but that fear that one day you see them and the next you don't ever again is much different that when someone dies because they are sick.

What I learned is a very important lesson in life at a very young age. Life is very precious and something that should not be wasted. I live everyday of my life to the fullest and like there was no tomorrow...no regrets. I went to college, got married, got my MBA, and had two beautiful children. I thirst to experience everything that is good in this world because there is so much of it. While I can also say that some very very bad things have happened along the way I have never lost sight of how my life is a gift that I will never take for granted. Nik's passing lighted a fire under me that has never burned out. A few years ago our debate coach passed and I remember that when everything with Nik happened how hard it was for him. He pulled me aside and using one of his classic lines he said "Harnish don't be dumb" life will get better than this and he was right.

I still talk to Nik's parents. They are good people who have had a hard life. They inspire me in how they have turned such an awful and hard situation into something that will help others. They generously fund a scholarship that pays the same amount for four years to a graduating senior and have done so for almost ten years now. My sister was a recipient of this award and it helped her pay for school to become a teacher. They also sponsor a fine arts scholarship at the high school as well. When Nik died they took part of his college savings and divided it among his closest friends. When they gave us the money they told us to remember Nik and to work in our lives to touch others the way he touched our lives. I took this to heart and have always tried to be the friend he was to me.

Yesterday was his birthday and although I never forget the day he passed I didn't remember yesterday until I saw other friends' posts on facebook. If he were still alive today we would probably be friends on facebook. Instead we remember and for me remembering means saying thank you. My life is fuller and more rich because of the lessons I learned from you.

1 comment:

Tova Darling said...

That is so sad! It must've been a really difficult time for you. :(