At my high school graduation, I remember one of the speakers saying something to the effect of, Look around. This is the last time you'll see some of these people because your lives won't cross paths again.
It was a surreal moment for me, as I think it must be for students who have spent day in and day out with the same people year after year. Never see them again? Really? It was hard to imagine. Of course, there were people I knew I wouldn't miss, people who had walked the halls near me but not with me. I could imagine not seeing them again. But I couldn't imagine not seeing other friends who had been such a strong part of my high school experience, especially those of us who had been in choir together.
I was a choir junkie. Not only was I in the main concert choir, but my senior year I was in the select ensemble. Almost all my friends were part of the choir crowd simply because we spent so much time together: hours of class time, weekends upon weekends of performances, and a week in the spring for choir tour. During class, I sat next to Megan Christensen and Sarah Cantrell. During performances, I stood next to Tim Fadel.
Tim Fadel was a year younger than me, but our hours of choir time, as well as bus rides for basketball games, allowed us to become good pals over the two years we went to school together. He stood behind me during ensemble performances and pulled my hair. He stood next to me during choir performances and tried to make me laugh by holding my hand. He sat in front of me on the bus trips for choir tour. We passed notes between classes, had a secret handshake, and made flirty eyes at each other just to make the other person laugh. Sarah Cantrell and I, Tim Fadel and Adam Watson--we were four amigos who knew how to make each other laugh.
And oh how we'd laugh. Loud boisterous laughs that older people no doubt disapproved of. We'd tell each other ridiculous "knock-knock" jokes, try out cheesy pick-up lines, and try to push each other into the lockers. We'd sing the wrong lyrics to the choir songs, and give each other handshakes where we'd try to squeeze the living daylights out of our fingers. We were all good enough friends that Tim and Adam said they'd take Sarah and me to our school's Winter Formal. (Jason said it was okay since he didn't want to go.) Unfortunately, I got grounded the weekend of the formal and my parents wouldn't let me go. Sarah went with Tim and Adam while I sat home and sobbed. Tim called me the next day to cheer me up. "It wasn't that much fun," he said. "You're lying," I laughed. "Well, maybe."
Now that I think of it, I think Tim probably made everyone feel like they were his good pal. He was that kind of guy.
At my high school graduation, our concert choir performed together again for the last time. As always, Tim stood next to me and after we concluded the final song of the program he grabbed my hand and squeezed it. "See you around," he said. I nodded and cried, and kissed him on the cheek. Of course I'd see him again.
I did see him again. One year later at his high school graduation, when the concert choir invited all the alumni back to sing the last song together, I stood next to Tim and Adam. We elbowed each other in the sides and laughed again. "See you around," we said to each other after the graduation ceremony. I don't think any of us were sure if we really would see each other again.
Occasionally, I'd read about him in the high school alumni magazine. He got married, had two children, still lived in Portland. At my 10-year reunion, our former principal announced that Tim had been diagnosed with cancer: synovial sarcoma. I was shocked, but still young enough to believe that my old pal Tim would be just fine.
For four years, Tim fought against cancer. I would periodically check his online journal and say a prayer for him and his family.
Yesterday I found out that Tim passed away on Saturday. Even though I haven't seen him--haven't even talked with him--in more than 13 years, I was still so sad to hear about his passing. As I laid in bed last night, I cried for Tim's family: his wife of 13 years, his 10-year-old son, his 8-year-old daughter, his parents and siblings. What a tremendous loss for them, and those who knew him.
It's amazing how much impact one person can have on our life, even if it was such a long time ago that it seems insignificant until you stop to remember it.
His journal posted his parting words, and I am taking the liberty to post them here as well:
I am here now.
I am finally home.
I can breathe. I can run. I can see color.
I am certain of love.
I have complete joy and complete peace.
I am exploring every corner of my imagination.
I am laughing with my family.
(Job says "hi" and not to stress about the little things)
I am singing and playing instruments.
I am playing ping pong and basketball.
I am resting.
I am free.
I am here with you.
I am here with God.
...Oh and I may have an overdue library book too, if someone could check on that for me, thanks.
Thanks for the laughs, Tim. For those two years of high school memories, for the jokes, the handshakes, the good times. I'll be sure to tell one of your knock-knock jokes to my daughter after your memorial service on Friday. Our laughter will be the best way I can think of to remember you.
See you later, Tim. Keep that spot next to you in heaven's choir open for me.