One of the best friends I’ve ever had lost his father this month.
Death proved itself a slingshot, pulling me back through the decades to think about the few times I met his father and then catapulting me forward to question what I’m doing today.
Jay and I met at Emerson College. I was climbing the stairs in front of him and tripped. He laughed at me. For a split second I thought he was an asshole—and then realized that I would have laughed at me, too. The friendship started there. Lots of talking and philosophizing and listening to Dave Matthews during the school year and then summers full of letter writing. I still have his letters. He’s that kind of friend. A deep soul. Honest. Kind. Smart. Funny. Creative. One of my biggest regrets is that I failed as a friend on numerous occasions and then after college did a crap job of keeping in touch.
Then his father died and I realized how many decades had passed.
I met Jay’s father, Bob, on Cape Cod, where he and the rest of the family lived. Getting there from Boston was just a cheap Peter Pan bus ride away, so I jumped at the chance the times I was invited out there.
When I met Bob, I couldn’t stop smiling. He’s the guy who dressed up as Santa Claus at Christmas and could swing it without having to add a fake beard or redden his cheeks. He just had that natural happiness going for him. Endearing is the word that comes to mind as I type this.
The thing I remember most about him is that he lived out loud. He was a part of the world, not hiding from it. He loved his family and friends. He loved music. He loved to laugh. He was was there. He gave as good as he got.
The first time I met him, he and his wife were spending the weekend on the beach in their camper and Jay and I came along for the ride. Bonfires and laughter followed. At the time, I remember thinking, Life can’t get any better than this. This is what it’s all about.
And then I graduated and started working and got married and worked more and had kids and worked even more — and in the quest to do it all I lost a bit of myself. I lost that girl on the beach who could be made happy by little more than salt air and laughter.
I admire Bob even more now because I know that being happy and having friends and a close family isn’t something that comes easy, especially when you have a job and other responsibilities — yet it was evident how much he was loved and how much he loved those around him.
We talk about doing the work all the time on this site, in terms of writing books, opening businesses, being an entrepreneur, but there’s a piece that’s missing.
Doing the work involves connecting, loving, laughing, too. It involves living out loud. If you don’t know these things, how can you write about them or paint them or sing a song about them? Our greatest inspiration surrounds us.
I had a brief glimpse of Bob tapping into that world and saw the joy it brought him.
That girl on the beach is working on making a comeback. She has Bob as her North Star. What’s important isn’t the number of followers or fans. It’s what and who and how you create and love and live. It’s about living out loud.