Yesterday a classmate of mine lost his year-long battle with colon cancer.
Jay and I did high school journalism together back in the stone age of electric typewriters and spray mount, and we spent time together at a couple of reunions. For the past few years, through the magic of the internet, we'd been in touch regularly via Facebook.
Any time I had the chance to interact with Jay, it was always a treat. He had a wry sense of humor and an enthusiasm for life that was contagious. Even during his cancer treatments, he remained upbeat. Most messages from Jay ended with him urging the recipient to "create a great day."
When I got the news about Jay this morning, I definitely didn't feel like creating a great day. To be honest, I spent a few hours mindlessly munching junk food, playing computer Mah Jong, and kind of sobbing. It was a slow day at work, and I had no interest in doing much of anything.
Then I thought about one of my last Facebook interactions with Jay. This happened about a month ago, when he was very ill but still feeling good enough to be online. Like today, I was having a very boring day at work, and I mentioned this on Facebook. Jay piped up and said he was feeling sick from chemo. He said it very matter-of-factly, not to make me feel guilty, but just to vent about the troubles of his day, making chitchat like I was.
Jay's comment made me think two things: 1) what a luxury it is to be bored; and 2) what a shame it is that I, who am (for now) healthy, spend too much of my time being bored at work. That comment lit a fire under me. I took advantage of the quiet and did some writing of my own. And I reported that fact to Jay, who responded with a smiley face.
More than anything else, that's how I want to remember Jay: as someone who taught me to see opportunities where I would not have seen them otherwise. And as someone with a smiley face. I hope that reading this post about a truly remarkable man will remind you that you, too, have the power to create a great day.