It wasn’t the lyrics of a classic song, it was the announced death of a person I’ve known for forty years.
Relationships made at work are in a peculiar box. Often they are simply “associates”, people that are known, people that share a building or office, people that work together on projects… but often they never enter in to your private life.
‘Associate” does not necessarily mean being a friend. In academia, relationships have another label- colleague, another person at the “college”. Again, friendship is not implied, but the relationship is deeper on many levels. More complex, more commitment.
It’s stranger still when the individual should be a “friend”, but has never quite transitioned to that close circle. It is always a missed opportunity. I received a death notice of a person that should have been my friend, but remained my colleague. We smiled in hallways. We brought joy to each other in the passing. We loved the same things in the world. We taught things of passion.
And somehow we never had the time for “friendship”. that was an error on my part. I should have reached out more because I appreciated his “being”. But I think he knew that, so maybe it was the same for him.
The college asked for comments, I sent the following.
He was/is the purist definition of a colleague. We shared in teaching disciplines that did not directly lead to successful careers, yet we believed the disciplines were essential to being a successful individual. We shared being part-time instructors in the decades when part-time did not have the respect of others. We shared the challenge of being academic chairs when budgets were contracting every year. We shared the joy of loving the community of the college above all else. But he was kinder, wiser, and more gentle.
I will miss my rare colleague, as he continues to lead the way.