Life Lesson

As mourners shuffled into Eric’s memorial service, Monty Python advised them to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. No doubt about it, this playlist was compiled by the dearly departed. 

Tom Petty’s bittersweet Wildflowers and Warren Zevon’s heartbreaking Keep Me in Your Heart followed, but the Monty Python song—an upbeat-but-dark comic ditty sung from the cross in the film Life of Brian—was pure Eric. I could almost hear him cackle in the doorway of the University of Central Florida campus newsroom in the 1980s.

Eric hung out in that doorway so he could smoke and remain in the conversation, which was usually making up obscene lyrics to popular songs. Eric was the master.

My favorite was his version of Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses. I would recite his lyrics here, but this is a family publication that has no use for a word that rhymes with jungle and refers to the last stop of the digestive-waste process.

It was as juvenile as it was brilliant. 

Eric was hysterical. He was an amazing writer and editor who, after college, went undercover to write a heralded piece about the homeless in Orlando. After that, he went to law school, became a Gator and enjoyed a successful law career for decades before esophageal cancer set in.

I learned of his death the way I learn about a lot of things these days: social media. A friend from our UCF days posted his obituary. I smacked my forehead, sighed and reached for a photo I keep in my home office—Eric and other college friends flanking me and my bride on our wedding day in 1992.

I stared at it for a long time, noting Eric’s prankster smile and wondering what he was saying to make us crack up for the photographer. Chances are, it was something delightfully unprintable. 

I adore this photo, but in recent years (decades, actually) it has made me sad. I lost touch with the majority of my college friends in that photo, people who, in that moment, I thought would be at our side forever.

The last time I saw Eric was at his wedding in the early ‘90s. And every time I looked at that photo, I vowed to call Eric and see how life was treating him. I never did.

At his memorial service, I learned he had two kids; one in high school, the other in college. He and the bride we met at his wedding were no longer married, but they remained close friends. That, too, made sense. Eric was a hard guy not to like.

As I listened to the Eric-curated playlist, a familiar thought kept haunting me: Keep in touch with good friends. Make the effort you keep vowing to make. 

Finding old friends who played key roles in your life is not hard in this day of Google searches and social media. 

As Monty Python proclaimed, always look on the bright side of life. Do not lose touch with great people who made that life bright. OS

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