I got word yesterday of another high school classmate's passing. Our class was large - 618. But L. stood out for his excellent academic record and his athletic prowess. Sixth in our class (I was #24, right ahead of the guy who was voted "most intelligent"), L. did well in football, basketball, and baseball. He was a quiet, private person. I asked a friend what happened:
Turns out L. died in his sleep, sitting on his favorite recliner. Between us, please, L's life was rough with alcoholism being a contributing factor. L. died pretty much a pauper. Such a brilliant man reduced to such a humble existence. Breaks my heart. But L. had such love and hope in his heart. Always positive. Always encouraging others. Very religious all of his life.
I always thought that L. went off to college in PA on a full scholarship. Turned out, it was a football scholarship, he got injured his freshman year, lost his scholarship, returned home and worked to put himself thru the UMD to earn his degree. Later, he earned a Masters at UNT. I can't help but think that, being 6th in our class, he could have easily gotten an academic scholarship, for sure. But L. was so self-effacing, he probably didn't give that a thought.
...He came from very humble beginnings, and all of us in West Rockville knew that his parents were poor, but he was a leader among us. We looked up to him and his quiet dignity and would have followed him thru Hell.
A long time ago, I had a form letter from L., asking for money because he was down and out. I was a single mom at the time, trying to make ends meet in my fixer-upper. So I couldn't help him. I thought at the time how sad it was that he felt he had to do that. He had appeared so capable and had such promise, but deep inside he was just like the rest of us. He was married a few times, had three kids who seem to be doing well, and was friends with his ex-wife from whom he rented a room. I imagine his strong faith got him through a lot of ups and downs. But his is still a sad story, and I am counting my blessings. Mine may not have been the most exciting life, but keeping my head down and going about my business have worked for me. My health is good, I have love and friendship, and lots of food for the mind and spirit. What more, really, do we need?