This piece is about an old friend. I use the term friend with some degree of guilt because I was a neglectful one for many years. That being said, there are some people you always call a friend. If you never had a falling out, got along great with them, had some really good times together, and had a mutual respect, even the loss of contact won’t stop you from calling them a friend. Even if the only way you found out their death was only hours away was on Facebook.
I moved to New York on July 23, 1985. After a few months here I moved to what I hope will be the smallest place I ever live, a studio apartment on the corner of Avenue S and West 9th Street in Brooklyn. There are a few things I remember about the time I lived there. My first battle with New York cockroaches, living in walking distance from great pizza, watching the New York Mets win the World Series, celebrating the win with my neighbors, and the 2 people I met who would become my best friends in the neighborhood. One of these friends I lost contact with completely. The other friend was Ira, a friend I lost contact with over the years but stayed close with for quite some time after I moved out of Brooklyn. In fact as I write this, I remember Ira helping me move to the slightly bigger apartment I moved into on 1st Avenue and 1st Street in Manhattan.
We all have people in our lives we call friends because we refuse to take that title away from them. There are many people who are much closer to these people than we are, many who have shared more with them, done more for them, supported them in tough times and experienced milestones. There are many people who may read this, friends of Ira who likely never even heard my name, but that can’t and won’t stop me from proudly stating that Ira was my friend back then, and in my mind and heart died today as my friend.
Some time early this afternoon I saw a picture of Ira posted on Facebook. Although the communication was not there, something I say with complete and open honesty was much more my fault than his, we were Facebook friends, something that allowed me to at least occasionally take a peak in on his life. It looked like he left a very special one. Still with the woman he met so many years ago, a woman who made him happy from the start, and surrounded by people who clearly appreciated what a kind and gentle soul he was. So when I looked harder at the picture and read the comments this afternoon, the fears I had since I saw him thinning dramatically in previous pictures turned out to be legitimate. Ira was not only very sick, his death was imminent. There was even an indication he would be leaving this world today. At 5:49 PM I posted the following on his timeline.
Ira, I have not been the friend I should have been for you, and I am not sure exactly what is going on, but I am smart enough to deduce from the posts. Always always always thought you to be a great guy and my life, even if I didn’t show it, has been enriched by knowing you and having you as a friend. When people feel that way about you, you live forever.
For the next few hours I kept a close eye on the computer and sadly started getting indications that he was gone. 3 hours late I saw the post. Ira passed away at 5:40 PM, 9 minutes before my post.
Ira was a school teacher when I met him and I’m fairly certain a damn good one. As I sit here, offering my deepest sympathies to those he left behind and who loved him and were loved by him, I realize that my old friend the teacher’s last act as a friend, even if he never knows it, was to teach me a valuable lesson I hope I never forget. Stay as close as you can to the people who enrich your life, be they friend or family, and do it now, because even 9 minutes on Facebook can make a difference.
Rest in Peace Ira.