Tribute to a former classmate

For many people 2016 wasn't a good year, and I'm not even sure if 2017 has been better for them so far. 

As for me 2016 was an OK year. One highlight was our college reunion in November. I didn't blog about it, mainly because some classmates explicitly asked not to have their picture posted on social media. 

It was so nice seeing many of them, 17 / 20 people made it, and even though  since we graduated 25 years ago, many of us had never met again, it felt like we haven't changed much.

Graduation Party

A little hair loss, a little weight gain, apart from that, the way they were moving, talking, laughing - exactly the same! Pretty amazing!

It was a Friday night, it had been a long week, and rush hour traffic in the rain and parking space hunting had worn me out. Around 10pm I was ready to leave. 

I had switched seats often during the course of the evening and had a chance to talk to most of them individually. Not to Urs, though, so I thought what's half an hour more, and I sat down and listened to him telling me about his wife, his three kids and his job.

So glad I did that!

Back when we were commuting to college he lived in a neighbour town, so we often rode the train together. Even though we didn't have much in common, I always enjoyed his company. He was an excellent listener, gave good advice and had a great sense of humor. Also he was super smart and helped me many times when I had math or accounting trouble.

Can you imagine my shock when I opened an envelope last week, and it was his death notice? I read it several times and kept thinking "that's got to be a mistake. I only just saw him. He was fine! He can't be gone."

Etiquette or not, I found out his wive's e-mail address (she's a food blogger, I immediately liked her!) I sent her a note expressing my condolences and telling her what I liked about her husband.

She responded and told me he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the beginning of February, and by the time the doctors told him there was nothing they could do for him, he had 24 hours, and he closed his eyes forever.

I couldn't believe it. I think I could have accepted an accident or a heart attack (he certainly had a risk factor or two going against him), but a nasty cancer that progressed that quickly? He deserved so much better.

A couple of days later two college girlfriends and I car-pooled and attended his funeral at a town about an hour away. It was a good thing we left early because that small village got flooded with friends and family of the deceased. 

There weren't enough seats at church, and it was comforting to see how many people could make it. 

"We're not supposed to be here today" his childhood friend said. "And yet here we are." 

He shared a lot of happy memories and had nice things to say about his friend's parents, how he was alway welcome at their house, and how the Mom restocked the surprise drawer (full of chocolate, candy, cookies and chips) in no time after they'd raided it. 

"It doesn't come as a surprise that his own home was the same." He added. 

It turned out that Urs joined a local marching band and volunteered as a board member taking care of the money part. (Of course, see above. Math and accounting. His forte.) The person who was speaking said they were looking for a president for quite a while, and at some point Urs said alright, I'll do it. He was officially elected the night before he checked himself into the hospital. Darn.

They played a piece he requested, and I thought at least he had enough time to make arrangements.

One of his neighbours spoke and described what it was like to live next door to Urs. "You didn't have to tell him you needed something - he knew and was just there to help."

I could go on and on, it was painfully beautiful to hear that he cared for the people around him just like he did as a class member. 

I only saw his wive and two daughters from afar and in the slide show that was being shown, but his 10 year old son had been walking around, welcoming all the familiar faces, and he is his Dad's spitting image! If he was watching from above, his heart must have melted!

Urs, you kindness, warm-heartedness and positive attitude will not be forgotten! May you rest in peace!