Saturday, December 31, 2011

last/next lap

A moment ago I was stunned by an e-mail. Still reeling a bit. And the subject is not an inappropriate one for an end of the year message.

My university sends out notices when a faculty member has passed and so I received the message that Bruce Wallin died on Thursday.

The last time I saw Bruce we were sitting around a conference table. We both were on a committee related to sports and student athletes. Bruce had been a member the year before and I was new to the committee. He apologized repeatedly at the session because he would not be able to participate since he was having hip replacement surgery. This was in September of 2010.

Our paths did not cross that regularly. I first met Bruce at and around sporting events at the school. He was always friendly and welcoming something I appreciated. I got to know him better at a retreat on Martha's Vineyard about a dozen years ago. We were roommates and found ourselves chatting about this and that when not engaged in the retreat program, nearly like college freshmen.

He was an interesting man with a varied background. He was a college basketball player at Princeton where he played during the era when Bill Bradley starred there. He was a good friend of John McEnroe the tennis great. Bruce regaled me for quite some time on Martha's Vineyard with descriptions of his stint working for the Minnesota Twins. Bruce was the guy who drove in the relief pitchers back during the era when, to speed up the games, baseball required that a car drive the players from the bull pen to the pitching mound.

I saw him once around on campus from a distance after the surgery which had, I assumed, gone well. But apparently afterwards he had become ill with cancer. The notice from the school said he died after a short fight with the disease. Probably no more than 65, and he looked a lot younger. Plus he was full of life and energy--almost no pretension. Just a good guy.

We are about to finish the lap for 2011. Every day is precious, a gift. I hope I, and those I love, can remember this as we begin another trip around the track.

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