I got busy. You know how it is. I traveled, started a business, my dog died. Life happens.
And then one day I realized I hadn’t heard from Gary in a very long time. Nor had I seen one of his book reviews.
He was a consistent reader of my blog, and sometimes commented there or on my Facebook posts. But I hadn’t seen his comments for a while.
A long while.
Then again, after the presidential election I acquired some 2,000 new Facebook friends and who knows if Facebook’s crazy algorithm pushed his presence in my feed down.
I went to his page and there they were: condolences to his family.
In disbelief, I Googled his name and city. And found his obituary. I was dumbfounded.
Gary was dead.
How was that possible? How did I miss it? We had social media friends in common but I never saw a post about his passing.
I had to be the last to know, I thought.
Gary and I met around the turn of the millennium when I joined the Internet Writing Workshop’s non-fiction section. It was a wonderful group of collegial writers and as an administrator, he set the tone and also wielded a kind and helpful critique pen.
As an essayist? He was terrific. Due in part to his inspiration and critiques, I published more prolifically than ever before.
It was a privilege to watch his memoir, Seven Wheelchairs, take shape in the workshop and to have my own tiny bit of input to it.
His life was inspirational, his writing aspirational.
Plus I just plain liked the guy. The thought that he was gone? I couldn’t process it. The idea that he had been gone months without me noticing it? Shocking.
Many writers far more eloquent than I have written of his talent and his kindness. I think every one of us wanted to write something profound, to do him justice. I’m no different.
I could say his life and death were lessons for me because they were.
His life taught me that it’s possible to rise to any occasion and live fully and with love. That’s because at 17 he got polio and lived his entire life in a wheelchair. And yet, he lived with grace and with love. His was truly a life well-lived.
His death taught me to pay attention to the people who matter. To not take for granted that they (or we) will have another day.
But in the end, for me, it was this:
He was kind. He gave and received love. He inspired.
As a measure of a man’s life? More than enough.
I like to think of Gary walking freely on the other side. Of helping souls here on earth grow in love and peace.
I can only hope I am one of them.
I wrote this piece in 2018 to be included in a book of remembrances one of his friends put together. If you’d like to read Gary’s memoir, Seven Wheelchairs, it’s here. https://amzn.to/2Ii7LhW