I got news today that one of my classmates, Dan Pendergrass, passed away. Dan and I grew up in the small town of White Rock, New Mexico, and were very good friends as children. He was one of the first male best friends I ever had; people thought we were totally weird or our cross-gender bond, but throughout the subsequent years I've had a lot of guy friends and have considered life all the richer for it.
My memories of Dan are of a stunningly intelligent person, a gentle soul who struggled with the cruelty the world showed him. He was an eplileptic and one of the few kids in our class who wore a medic alert bracelet, and he was small for his age and uncoordinated. The last kid picked for sports teams (unless it was me). Some of the saddest memories I have are the birthday party at his house that was just me and his family, as he didn't feel like there was anyone else who'd want to come, and when I was hospitalized after a car accident when I was eleven, Dan ended up in the room across from me thanks to one of his many health problems (sad to say, there were enough that I don't remember which one this was.) While my room smelled like a flower shop and looked like an overstocked toy store, Dan's was relatively empty. I had a regular stream of visitors and Dan was usually alone. I brought toys and games over to him and that was one of the first experiences to show me that not all childhoods are created equal. I had a fantastic one with unlimited love and attention, but a lot of children go without.
He and I drifted apart in middle school and high school, but he'd been in touch again recently on Facebook. He was working on becoming a children's author, and would occasionally ask for advice. There I felt like I had to be the bearer of bad news as I let him know how difficult it is to break into that industry, though I hope his family saves his books and continues to work on getting them published.
I don't know the circumstances of his death, but I hope against hope that he wasn't alone and that he found the love and support that everyone deserves in life. Rest in peace, old friend. I'll never forget you.