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Tears and Inspiration

It’s been a long time since I’ve cried. But I did yesterday.


Someone passed away. It wasn’t family. It wasn’t a friend. It wasn’t an acquaintance. Yet I found myself wiping tears away as I read the stories of his death.


Sure, he was a great musician (one of the greatest), an amazing lyricist, an accomplished author. And I was all choked up. And I was embarrassed. You cry when you lose your family and friends. This was just a member of a rock and roll band. Get a grip, Joe.


I thought of the first time hearing him play. In my cousin’s bedroom on Staten Island when I was twelve years old. Introducing me to this band before joining him for a game of whiffle ball in the street in front of his home. Mastering air drums with me before we rode our bikes to the schoolyard to hustle unsuspecting kids in a game of two-on-two. Allowing me to listen to the album one more time before heading downstairs for pancakes after a sleep-over.


I thought of standing in line to buy tickets to my first show. Fortieth row on the floor and my new girlfriend was coming. She stood on the chair so she could see as I held her legs with one arm and drummed with the other. She encouraged me that my banging on the dashboard every time we would go out was just like the drumming in the songs. She surprised me with tickets for the next tour. She watched patiently as I banged the rail in front of the seats we had.


I thought about convincing myself that a college visit with my oldest son just happened to be in the vicinity of a concert. What a joke. He knew why we were there. And he laughed as I air drummed to perfection in the sixth row. And he ran with me in the rain to try to find the phone he lost. And he has joined me at every concert since.


I thought of introducing my daughter to my guilty pleasure. She had a feeling I was on the edge of groupieness but of course, her college visit was really why we were going to Denver. She laughed as I stood in the aisle, flailing my arms and hands with every song. She danced to songs she didn’t know. She doesn’t know that I’ll never forget the smile when she turned and said, “I know that one!”

I thought of members of my team at work surprising me with a signed poster as a thank you for the years we worked together. They reinforced that those years working with them were the best of my career. They reinforced that work can really be fun. They reinforced that fulfilling work and fulfilling relationships are just that……fulfilling.


I thought of reading his book on rebounding from personal tragedy. He was so depressed, lost…. dead. And he faced it, didn’t hide it, and came back from it. I read that book soon after my son was diagnosed with autism. I was depressed, lost.... dead. I’m facing it, I’m not hiding it, and it has helped me come back.


I thought of all of that and then I knew. This wasn’t just a member of a rock and roll band, a drummer, a guy who didn’t even know I existed. This was someone who unknowingly came along with me during significant points in my life. And I unknowingly was bringing him along. A secret inspiration to connect with others. A secret inspiration to celebrate great times. A secret inspiration to face and rebound from bad times.


Someone passed away. It wasn’t family. It wasn’t a friend. It wasn’t an acquaintance.


It was an inspiration


It’s been a long time since I’ve cried. But I did yesterday.


And I’m not embarrassed about it.


Rest in Peace Professor

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