In passing

David was an outcast. Actually, Outcast is the wrong word; I was an outcast. David was forgotten – neither teased nor purposefully ignored, yet not quite accepted as a part of the group. Regardless of how it happened, we both found ourselves outside of the social pecking order of our church’s youth group. Our youth group had a caste system; that was the downside of growing up in a small conservative suburban church.

There were the cool kids: athletic, good looking, socially adept, dressed in trendy clothes, and listened to country music. Others, like me, were outcasts. We wore second hand clothes and listened to punk rock. We were the last ones picked. The few remaining were not cool enough for the inner circle, but they were not pushed aside like the outcasts. They were forgotten. Like David.

We managed to survive our teenage years on our own terms. David was a couple of years behind me, so I tried my best to help him not become an outcast. I showed David the ropes at Warm Beach kids camp (literally, they had a rope swing – which is so much more exciting to a fifth grader), and then again a few years later as a junior higher at Cascades Camp. His first year as a junior high student was my last, and his first year in high school was my senior year. Our unique places with in the youth group’s social hierarchy allowed me to play mentor, to some degree. And we both turned out to be decent, well adjusted human beings.

Through that role of sensei, I got to know a lot about David. We became friends. Eventually, David’s parents drove him from their home in Seattle, to college in Boise. And I was on campus the day they dropped him off to help him settle into his dorm and welcome him to his new life. In the absence of all that was familiar, he spent a lot of time at my apartment. Sometimes he studied, sometimes he did laundry, and sometimes he just came over to hang out… and eat.

I babysat his goldfish when he went home for Christmas. I told him I wasn’t good with fish, but he trusted me. And they died while he was away. I felt bad but he was quick to forgive. And life went on.

It was no longer me helping him. And it was more than a simple mutual respect. It was, in my mind, the model of what friendship should be about. And eventually, it was him giving me advice. While I was dating Naomi, he was the sole voice of reason that kept me from falling head over heels for the wrong girl.

After a couple of years David went home, but I stayed in Boise. He married his sweetheart, and I married mine. We grew up, got real jobs, and became fathers. I haven’t seen him in years.

About a month ago, I got a phone call from my dad. David was in the hospital. It was leukemia, and his diagnosis was bad. In his mid twenties, young, vibrant, and healthy – cancer was a surprise. I immediately felt the impact of loss. He was working the last couple of times that Bekah and I were in Seattle so we never got the chance to catch up with each other. Now, I didn’t know whether or not I’d get a chance to see him again.

We kept his family in our prayers. It’s the only thing I knew how to do. A week ago, he was out of ICU and doing better. Easter Sunday, he was hit with a pneumonia and placed into a medically induced coma. Yesterday he was gone.

Today, I’m mourning the loss of a friend and brother. I am mourning for his wife and family, and for his parents, who are some of the kindest people I have ever known. And I’m in shock. To some degree, I don’t even know how to react. I could say that life is not fair, but it would be silly for us to expect fairness in a broken world.

So, I wait for news of funeral arrangements. I feel like I need to go, but I don’t know if I can afford the plane tickets. And if I had tickets, I don’t know if I could afford the time off. Yet, I feel like part of me will be missing if I don’t go. My heart, as always, is in Seattle.

Now, more than anything, I want to say farewell to a friend. We’ll miss you.


  1. I'm very sorry for your loss. I don't know if I knew him or not, but he sounds like a he was a genuine guy who I wish I had the chance to meet.

  2. I too wish I could be there. My desire is to be there in support of Joe and Linda. Indeed, we take after our parents, and David is a model of his mom's quietness and his fathers heart. Praise God he's home! His body is new and there is no pain now.