A couple of weeks ago Jack called and we talked for a long time. Cynthia and I needed to eat dinner, but something told me to not cut this one short. Sometime during the conversation he mentioned that he had an appointment to see his heart doctor this month and that he hadn’t been feeling too well. I made him promise to let me know when he found out the results.
I got an email this afternoon that my friend Jack Tolan died of heart failure. The day before his appointment.
My family moved across town in Atlanta when I was 10 years old. It was the middle of the school year. I still remember the traumatic experience of showing up in a new classroom and being introduced to a group of strangers who eyed me suspiciously. Or so it seemed.
Jack was the first kid who made me feel welcome. Thus began a special friendship that has endured for 52 years.
His mother often picked us up after school and took us to Northeast Plaza Lanes, where we would bowl three games for a dollar. In high school we were both Beatlemaniacs. We got guitars, spent countless hours listening to records and doing our best to learn the chords. We even briefly belonged to a band that I think played two forgettable gigs.
After high school we were in and more often out of touch, but at some point I bought a really nice acoustic guitar from Jack that I have since given to my son. That is now a special treasure of our friendship that I couldn’t have foreseen when I acquired it.
We stayed in close contact over the past five years or so and I’m incredibly thankful for the couple of occasions we made time to hook up when I was in Atlanta. During our last communication we spoke of looking forward to attending our 50th high school reunion together.
Here’s something amazing. In all those 52 years I cannot remember a single time that Jack and I exchanged cross words. We always had fun together, whether bowling, going to movies, playing Beatles songs, or just talking. Jack laughed a lot, robustly, and he never took himself too seriously. All who were privileged to know him are blessed with the memory of his love of life and of his family and friends.
Whether you knew Jack or not, here’s a simple thing I ask you to do to honor his memory and enrich both your life and others. Pick up the phone and call the people you care about. Or better yet go see them. No email, instant message, or Facebook. We tell ourselves we’re so busy, but we all get the same 24 hours each day, don’t we? Make the time to create memories, and to nurture and cherish your relationships.
Jack Tolan, I can hardly remember my life when you weren’t a part of it. You were a good man and an irreplaceable friend. I love you, I miss you, and I thank you for so many happy memories.