(I wrote this in 2004. The message is as current now as it was then.)

I went to a college fraternity reunion last year. It’s a small chapter of a national organization, so those of us who are “brothers” from my years in college, knew each other pretty well when we were in school. But, like most old college friends, we all went our separate ways after graduation. Some of us (me included) had not attended a college class reunion since we left campus with our degree more than 30 years ago. In fact, Most of us hadn’t seen each other in more than 35 years.

Wow, what a shock. Who were these old guys with gray hair (those who HAD hair), pudgy faces and rounded bellies? What happened to the skinny young guys we all used to be?

Those guys were there too…disguised at first as the old coots…but they all came out once the stories and libations began to flow.

“Oh my God! Is that really you?!!”
“Hey, do you remember the time….?”
“What about when we…?”
“Oh yeah. THAT was something. But how about when so and so did such and such?”

“Hey, where’s _____? I thought sure he’d be here.”
“Yeah. Me too. It’s not like him to miss something like this. Anybody seen _____? Anybody heard from him why he couldn’t make it? I wish he were here. I’d like to see that crusty old SOB again. It ‘s been a long time.”

“You and him shared an apartment for 3 years. You heard from him?
“Nope. I saw him briefly in ’82, but nothing since.”
“Well, we miss him. Hopefully he’ll make the next one.”
“Yeah….I hope so….Me too…Same here….”

Nobody’d seen him or heard from him. That was strange, because he was one of the top dogs while we were together at school. Extremely bright and talented; focused; driven; bound for the top of the heap. But always a bit too driven…too focused on “getting there”. No matter what he accomplished (and he accomplished a LOT…including winning a national science competition, designing and building a race car, opening his own movie Special Effects company), it never seemed to be enough to make him happy. It was more like: “OK, that’s out of the way. What’s next on the list?”. He never seemed to have true peace of mind. And nobody seemed to be able to get really close to him. He could be friendly and sociable, but always seemed to have a wall that cut his innermost self off from everybody else. The result was casual friendship, and little, if any, really deep bonding. But he was liked and well-regarded by his peers, and we would have liked to seen him.

“Maybe next time.”
“Yeah, maybe next time”

Nope. There’d be no next time. We’d never see him again because he committed suicide four months later. No goodbye to his wife. No note. He just went out at sunrise to a lush meadow near the water by his home and took his life. We didn’t learn of it until just a couple of weeks ago. His wife said he’d been getting more and more depressed over a period of several years, but none of us knew it. He’d been in great spirits when I saw him in ’82. But how long ago was that? 23 years?! Gee, I didn’t think it was that long ago….

I’d been meaning to get back in touch with him for some time…but didn’t. I was an hour from his home two years ago, but didn’t relate to that, and didn’t think to call him. Another one of our brothers, one who served near him in Viet Nam, was right there in his home town once on a business trip, and didn’t pick up the phone. You know how it is. Ya get busy. Got a lot of things to do. Yadayadayada. And besides, he didn’t seem to need people contact as much as the rest of did. He had his “things to do and get done”. His bag was always neatly packed and ready to go, ya know?

We couldn’t have been more wrong. Didn’t need as much people contact? Maybe one or two of us dimbulbs might have seen the problem with that if we’d thought about it a bit more…or made a phone call or two. What might have been the result if any of us had stayed in touch and reached out once in a while? Would we be seeing him in two weeks at the upcoming reunion? I don’t know. But we might have at least had a chance at it….and so might he…if we’d picked up the phone…made that call.

Seeing my “brothers’ again last year was incredibly uplifting, invigorating, joyful. What might it have been like for the one who’s now gone? We’ll never know.

How long since you’ve talked to those who were once close…or even somewhat close, friends. How about family? Talked to your brothers or sisters lately? Parents? Kids? Favorite Aunt or Uncle? Nephew or niece? Cousin?

A well-known “self-help” book begins with the words” “Life is difficult”. It can be too difficult for some if they try to deal with it alone. Maybe they've lost their way...gotten too beaten down by negativity, worry and fear, to know how to get back on track. Maybe you can help bring some “positivity” back into their life...a ray of sunshine from a smile or a friendly greeting...some comfort and re-energizing from a hug...a change of course from a helping hand on the tiller...a lift from some new wind beneath their wings. Pick up the phone. Make the call. It could be what makes “THE” difference for someone.

© Copyright 2004, All Rights Reserved, Ed Runci

Author's Bio: 

Co-Founder and Managing Partner of the Kaye Clinic for Ultra Rapid Detox (http://www.kayerapiddetox.com). Retired US Army officer. Founder/Director of the US military's most successful Alcohol and Drug Abuse Residential Rehab Facility. IT and Executive Coaching Consultant. IT Advisor to Devonshire Holdings Inc., Investment Banking Consultants and Corporate Financial Advisors. Entrepreneur. Writer.