Yesterday I got some heartbreaking news. A close friend of mine from college, Alan, committed suicide last Friday. We hadn't spoken in some years-he was always kind of bohemian and hard to get a hold of-but the news hit me really, really hard. I thought I would take a moment here to remember this wonderful person.
Alan was...different. Different than anyone I've ever known. I think the best way to describe him is as a living poem-beautiful, deep, yet only truly understood by the author. There always seemed to be some part of him that I just couldn't tap in to, no matter how much time we spent together (which was a fair amount). I'm not one who talks about "figuring people out," as I find that ridiculous, but there was an air of the enigmatic about Alan. He lived in a small apartment on College St. near the top of the hill. His bedroom was also his kitchen, and his computer room had one recliner, a desk, a computer, and a desk chair. He was the picture of simple living.
I have nothing but great memories of Alan. We met in a seminar in college, Buddhism in America I believe. I remember being fascinated by him (he sat on the other side of the seminar table from me), and slowly we got to know one another. We were TA's in the intro to Asian Religions class together. What was great is that our conversations and friendship went way beyond class (in fact I don't think we spent tons of time talking about class topics). We went to see My Morning Jacket together in Nashville. He gave me an aloe plant that survived for years even when I didn't water it. I still have the fan he brought me from Myanmar (I think that's where he went...maybe Cambodia) that hung on my walls in graduate school. I remember eating purple rice with coconut milk with him in his apartment. Or ordering pizza and drinking hard cider, and then both of us having horrible stomach aches afterwards. He's the reason I drink hot tea-it was a jasmine tea that he got me to try that helped me realize hot tea could actually be good. I remember him telling me about how he went hiking at Mammoth Cave and night came on sooner than he expected, so he slept on the side of the trail with the map as his blanket. We went to Barnes and Noble one night, came out to the parking lot, and his truck had popped out of gear and rolled into the door of the person parked next to him. Before that he had this great Jeep Cherokee that I was jealous of. He is the only person I've known who I thought would be a good monk. He gave me a copy of an Appalachian music cd that he called "Hilary's Reel" and continues to be one of my all time favorite albums. I listen to it constantly, and now it will have more meaning.
As I said before, Alan and I hadn't spoken for many years. Once I graduated from WKU and headed to graduate school, we fell out of touch-which I'll admit is partially my fault. Though as I said in my defense he's always been really hard to get a hold of (I remember just having to walk to his apartment sometimes because he wouldn't answer his phone-or he'd lost it). I learned yesterday that he'd been working with the homeless in Virginia and was suffering from depression and had some questions he wanted to ask God directly. Even though we hadn't spoken in a while, I thought (and still think) of Alan often. There was some part of me that felt...safe? warm? I don't know the word....knowing he was somewhere in the world doing good work. He was one of the most compassionate people I have ever had the honor of knowing, and the world has lost a truly good and beautiful person.
Alan-I hope you've found some peace. You were a wonderful human being, very much loved, and we'll miss you. May light perpetual shine upon you, my friend.