An old Alabama friend named Mark Nesbitt died last week. Just about everybody called him Nez. I'd known him three decades, since junior high. We'd fallen out of touch over the years, but when I heard he was going fast, I rushed back to see him. A few days later, he was gone.
Nez was a funny guy, a caustic smart-ass, and a stalwart friend to many. In this photo (taken in 1982 by my photographer dad at a prom), you can see Nez's spirit. He's the guy in red on the front row. Nez wasn't just clowning for the camera here. He brought that same manic energy into study hall or algebra class or midnight horror movies or careening down mountain roads at midnight with the headlights turned off and Journey or AC/DC blasting holes in your eardrums ...
Like all of us, Nez had his ups and downs in life. There were times I wish I'd been there for him (and many more times I wish he could've been there for me). Before he went on his way, I was one of many folks who got to hold his hand and tell him how much I loved him and how sorry I was we'd fallen out of touch. He died a week ago, surrounded by his family.
Death's a natural part of life, but it's often such a struggle to find any peace in that. Maybe that's the point. Maybe it's a test for the rest of us, to see how we make it through the sadness. And I gotta say, we're doing all right, my friends and I.
A lot of old pals got back together in memory of Nez (all but two of the guys in this photo made it back, and there were many more at the hospital and funeral). Some of us hadn't seen each other in 25 years. Despite all the tears and sadness we shared, we also had a blast catching up and hanging out. The laughter and love gave us comfort.
Rest in peace, Nez. You brought a lot of people back together at the end. That's how much we loved you, and I'm so glad you saw that before ya took off.