When Friends Die

Posted: April 18, 2016 by admin

As I write this, tears roll down my face like confused streams that have lost their way. For I am confused and lost. It is beyond my comprehension how such good people can be taken away so quickly and unexpectedly.

A few weeks ago I learned of a hopelessly tragic, terrible and unexpected occurrence.

My friend died.

And, I am in shock.

It was only a few weeks ago when we were toasting glasses and telling jokes over a nice meal and great company. We talked about work, our first-world “problems” and how they got in the way of our dreams, and our wonderful kids, who sometimes weren’t that “wonderful.” Life was good.

And now my friend is gone.

Jim Tramel was an incredibly good person. He was a great dad. A great husband. A great friend. And perhaps the very way that he died is the ultimate demonstration of who he was as a person.

He died a hero trying to save his daughter.

The circumstances of his death are less important than the celebration of his life. But, we can’t help but to try to find answers to explain what greater force allowed it to happen. How could such a good person be taken from us? Why is life so cruel? Who is at fault?

In my disbelief and shock, I initially became angry searching desperately to find someone or something to blame. But in the end, there is no one to blame and only sadness. Desperate sadness. The type of sadness when you can’t breathe and momentarily lose hope.

That’s what it feels like when friends die.

In college, one of my best friends and roommate committed suicide. To this day, I blame myself for not being available in my friend’s darkest hour. I was studying for a test, was running late for practice and was generally stressed with inane minutiae that would only bother a twenty-year-old. He asked if I had “just a minute” to talk to him about something on his mind. I said I was “too busy.”

Those were my last words to him.

When I got back from practice later that day, he had taken his own life.

What I would do to go back in time and punch my self-absorbed self back then in the face and say, “Help your friend, damnit!”

But I can’t. And I still live with regret about it. And I’m helpless to change the past.

That’s what it feels like when friends die.

I cannot even begin to imagine what Jim’s dear wife and family are going through. I am afraid to reach out to say something for fear that I might make it worse for them. But my heart goes out to them as they begin down the long path towards acceptance and recovery.

But perhaps it begins with a celebration of his life.

Jim was the type of guy that always put a smile on your face when he showed up. His soul patch would wildly bounce up and down as he laughed. He was not one to ever be stingy with the smiles. He was a master griller and was the consummate host. Even while he was closely monitoring the temperature of a burger – yes, he put a thermometer in a burger to gauge its doneness to perfection – he was refilling your glass with an awesome vino from his cellar or making sure you were a happy guest.

He was also quick to help a friend in need. On the professional I often reached out for advice or an introduction. He was always there to help. Always. He was the physical embodiment of “pay-it-forward” and was clearly a net-contributor in the start-up world.

In the days to come, my state of shock and disbelief will likely fade to acceptance and sadness. In so many ways, his life was similar to mine – a dad of an older child and younger twins working in the crazy startup space. Perhaps that is why his passing hits home so hard. We often don’t release how precious life is until it is so quickly taken away. The sadness is unbearable, but the memories of how he made life better for me and everyone with whom he interacted helps to lessen the pain.

May he live on forever in our memory and in our hearts.

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