Today is my birthday. I’ll admit it, I’m feeling my age more lately. It takes a little more duck tape and glue to keep me going. But today I’m thinking about a friend who died last week, and the too short life he lived. It would be a good model for us all.
Some of you know that from early 1996 to 2000, I lived in Dayton, OH having moved from Tampa (where I now live for the second time). Dayton is a pleasant place, but it was kind of hard to meet people, and a Tampa friend who had moved from Dayton to Tampa explained this to me on a return visit to Tampa. He explained that not a lot of people move to Dayton. That most people have lived there most of their lives, and as I did meet folks, I found that to be true. They had the same friends since high school or longer.
But my first and best friend was a cute hyperactive young guy who tended bar at a small bar downtown. (I wish I could remember the name of the bar). His name was Julio Salem. He made sure to introduce me to others, and you would have thought I was the only person in the bar. Always friendly, always laughing and full of life. He called me a few years ago, to tell me he was going to be doing an internship at Disney in Orlando, and that I had to come over. I made it over once, then he moved to St. Pete and worked at the Georgie’s Alibi for a while, and we saw him a couple of times there. He was the friend you just picked right back up with.
He later moved to Ft. Lauderdale, but was found dead one morning last week. I have no inkling of the cause, but got some information it may have been a heart attack, as he had a heart condition. Now Julio couldn’t have been much more than barely in his 40s if that old, but if he had a heart condition, it was that it was just too big for one person.
I see death notices on Facebook, and many have a long list of brief comments by people remembering the person, but my Facebook stream was flooded for days (and still a few are passing through) from people all over who remember Julio as one of their best friends, and almost all of them post pictures with him and his big grin. To a person, they talk about his kindness and what a great friend he had been to them. How he made them laugh, and how he was there for them when things weren’t great, and this was just tribute after tribute.
As I grow older, I look at my life, and realize I want to be more like Julio. I want to be that person who brings so much positive energy to life that everyone just wants to be around you. I want to be the person there for friends always, and I want to love my friends as deeply as they love me, and I want to earn that love from them. I want to bring people together to enjoy one another and create memories. In short, like Julio did, I want to leave the world a better place because I was here.
So, as I get older, I realize I’ve not been doing that so well these last few years for any number of reasons, but there is no physical barricade in my way, so I have no excuse to tolerate negativity in my life, and every reason to follow Julio’s example, and be a friend to everyone I meet. I want to honor this life that, in so many hundreds of small ways, made the world a bit brighter for so many people.
So in honor of my friend Julio Salem, here’s a big hug and smile from me to you, whether we’ve met yet or not.