Got a text message from my friend Dan last Thursday, with the following photo of his office desk attached:
The text read:
Getting ready to start the first day. Your collage is close by but missing you. I hope you are enjoying the calm of not being in school today. All is well here though. I'll try to check in more substantially soon.It was good to hear from him, and I wrote him back, thanking him for thinking of me and wishing him well at the start of the first day, and the new school year.
Yesterday, while he was swimming in a swimming competition in Waikiki, Dan got into rough water, had to be rescued, was taken to the hospital, and died. I don't even know where to begin or what to say. Dan was one of my first hires when I was the English department chair. I liked him when I hired him, and over the course of the time we worked together I came to like him a lot more. He was a good guy, full of life and energy and humor. He was smart and outgoing and dedicated to teaching kids and teaching teachers. He took time off from teaching to get his Doctorate at Stanford, and then came back to make a difference. He worked hard and he played hard and he made us all laugh at lunch and at the poker table. He had a beautiful family, a position of responsibility and influence at Punahou, a million things on his plate, and he still took the time to reach out across a couple of thousand miles to me on the first day. Now, just like that, he's gone. There's no way to make any sense of it. It's just wrong, and it sucks, and I wish…, well, I wish that the universe had a set of rules that took care of good people like Dan. I wish Dan had been able to live to a ripe old age and tell funny stories to his grandkids. My heart goes out to his family and to all of the friends that he and I shared in the years we worked together.
Addendum: September 8, 2014.
It is no small testament to the impact that Dan had on the lives of the people around him that this blog post, which I wrote on the night I heard the news of his passing, has had, as of this time, more than 700 hits. (Any time this blog gets into double figures, that's a surprise. 700? That's just unbelievable.) You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, that's a fact. We are all missing you, Dan. Thank you.