This is a little late, but I wanted to write a short something about a classmate of mine who passed away a couple of weeks ago. His name was Charlie, and he was, at the risk of sounding cliche, one-of-a-kind. I first met Charlie in elementary school. I remember him being big in height, big in intelligence, and big in humor--everything about him was loud and expressive. He wore large glasses as a kid, and was often teased. Back in the early 90s, the awareness of bullying was not there. Bullying was just an expected part of adolescence. Charlie was intellectually above all of us, and we knew it. I think this is one of the reasons he was often teased, and though sometimes he was visibly affected by the teasing (who wouldn't be?), he often seemed stoic and unaffected by it. I always admired this quality about him. Throughout school, I was never high up on the popular totem pole. I wasn't bullied, but rather, I was more so ignored or in the background. When people did say things to me--mean things, of course--I couldn't let it go. I couldn't joke about it like Charlie could. When Charlie would laugh--especially after being teased, I always felt like he knew something the rest of us didn't. He knew how pointless it all was. He knew that the rest of us were not at his level of intelligence.
I don't have any singular memory of Charlie, rather, all of my memories of him have blurred together over the years. What I do remember has more to do with the general feeling of Charlie--his energy. His laugh was infectious; his intelligence supreme, and his heart kind and endearing.
When my classmates and I made the move from elementary school to middle school, and then finally to high school, I remember feeling relieved that Charlie made it through. Even at a young age, I would think about this, and take a sigh of relief.
The last time I saw Charlie was in 2005. I was in college in Madison, and I randomly saw Charlie at a house party near campus. He was easy to spot in a crow, with his enormous height (and personality). We talked briefly, and then we kept in touch off and on via Facebook.
I regret not staying in touch with him--not because I think I could have helped him in some way, but because I know he could have helped me. I have heard stories of how amazing he was as a friend, and I wish I could have known him more closely in that way.
Charlie was a beautiful soul, and I only hope that he can now understand the greatness of his person, and the enormous love and affection that all of us who knew him felt (and still feel) for him. Rest In Peace, Charlie.
Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.