Earlier tonight I terminated all of the digital relationships associated with my facebook account. After "un-friend-ing" several hundred people, I noticed that there was someone left, who had not shown up in my list of friendships, but still remained in the little "friends" box on my profile.
The fellow in question was an old friend from high school named Josh Busch. Josh was a year below me, and we were classmates in introductory biology the summer before my senior year. We were also both enrolled in the school's tiny Classical Greek program, and so we knew each other from that. I liked Josh. He had a ridiculous arrogant streak, and postured as a "badass bro", as people would have said back then, though unconvincingly. He was nerdy and affable, and I was capable of carrying on a conversation with him easily, which was rare for me then.
The year I started college, Josh transferred to a prep school on the east coast that was known for its hockey program. We kept in touch through Facebook, and I remember talking to him on a weekly basis about his calculus homework. It was a relief to me to have something fun and within-reach to work on, and I used Josh's weekly Calculus Extra Credit problem as a social distraction from the overwhelming course work I had piled on myself my first year.
I talked to Josh a lot that year, and less the year after. He started school at Emory, eventually entered a concentrated finance program, joined a fraternity. He was always a little bit ridiculous, but irresistibly nice. I remember this about him very much. I've always been someone who quietly beats himself up in conversation with people for saying stupid things, or being awkward, and Josh was the sort of person who could make it so that thoughts like that didn't occur. In my later years of college, we fell out of touch. I never knew what happened to him, but assumed he had finished his degree and gone on, as so many acquaintances have, into consulting or banking or some such.
As you might have guessed by now, I was wrong. Josh died in 2011, just before the start of his last year of college. The article in the student paper about his death leaves the cause unstated, but Google seems to suggest a drug overdose, and possibly suicide.
I am not a person who is given to fits of tragedy. But sometimes people strike us, and the news of their removal pierces deeply. I had not heard from Josh, or thought to contact him, in at least four years. I am sad for Josh's departure from this life, because he was kind, and because the circumstances of his death suggest that he was unhappy. Why is it that the people who give us a sense of our own dignity and worth, however briefly, are the hardest to see go?
Please pray for the soul of Joshua Busch.